School board decides to propose smaller increase

Published in print June 17, 2015

Director to ask for 20 cents next month
CELINA-After a $45 wheel tax hike to fund an additional $300,000 requested by the Clay Clay County School Board was rejected in a county budget meeting in May, school board members voted last Thursday to propose a reduced tax increase to the county commission, according to director of schools Jerry Strong.
“The board has requested me to ask the county commission for a 20-cent property tax increase,” Strong told the HORIZON Monday, “but they gave me no direction as to how we plan to make up the other 10 cents.
“The only two options I see that we have is to further deplete our fund balance or make more cuts to staff or essential programs and anymore cuts we make will adversely affect education.”
As reported last week, school board chairman David West said the need for additional funds was due to continued unfunded state mandates combined with the new federally mandated healthcare costs associated with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Strong explained the school board asking for an increase from the commission was a rare occurrence and wouldn’t be necessary without the new required spending.
“Our staff has reviewed nearly 30 years of meeting minutes trying to figure out the last time the schools proposed an increase and as far as we can tell the last time was in the late 80s,” he said. “We were awarded a sales tax increase to fund the construction of Clay County High School in the late 90s and a (tax) penny sometime in the last couple of years due to maintenance of effort (state mandate), but that’s it.”
County mayor Dale Reagan said in his nearly 10-year tenure he can’t remember the school board requesting additional funds.
“Not in my time,” he said when asked the last time the school board asked for more tax money, “but they do get a yearly maintenance of effort (state mandated) and growth increase.”
Reagan explained the county is also dealing with budget issues related to the mandates of the Affordable Care Act.
“We are trying to manage the same type of funding problems,” he said.
According to Reagan, the earliest the school board’s new 20-cent proposal can be presented will be at the next budget meeting.
“At this time, the next budget meeting is scheduled after the regular July commission meeting on July 6,” he explained. “The June meeting was rescheduled to June 29 due to the close of the fiscal year and the planning meeting for the July 6 regular meeting will follow it, but the next budget meeting won’t be until after the July regular meeting.”
See a future HORIZON for complete details from last Thursday’s school board meeting when minutes are released and for more on this ongoing story.