Bryan County school officials talked the possibility of raising property taxes during a work session Thursday night at Richmond Hill Middle School.
The school system, like others in Georgia, is facing the possibility of up to 14 percent in state budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.
Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher told board members it’s unclear what the financial outlook will be as the summer goes on and the state tries to reopen businesses after the shutdown caused by the pandemic.
He said he’s already asked principals at each of the system’s schools to identify vacant positions that can go without refilling, and both he and Bryan County School Board Chairwoman Amy Murphy stressed there would be no layoffs. Instead, positions emptied by retirement or resignations would go unfilled or “collapsed” into others.
There was no discussion of hard budget numbers at Thursday’s meeting, but Brooksher said he could ask for a millage rate increase of 1 or 2 mills. He also noted the system, which last year had a budget of more than $85.9 million, hasn’t raised its millage rate since 2009.
The school board’s millage rate now is 15.079.
However, taxpayers are paying an additional 1.5 mills on the $100 million bond referendum voters passed in 2017 to build new schools.
The referendum was presented to voters as part of a vote on renewing ESPLOST, or the education special local option sales tax. One of the schools funded by the referendum, Frances Meeks Elementary, is scheduled to open this fall near Richmond Hill Middle School and will require a millage rate increase of 1 mill to operate, Brooksher said.
Another, the new Richmond Hill High School, is anticipated to serve up to 3,500 students and be one of the largest in the state. It is about three years from opening and apparently could take another millage rate increase to operate.