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School board looks at trimming millage rate
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The Effingham County Board of Education plans to roll back the millage rate for the 2008-09 budget.

The current millage is 15.57 and the rollback rate is 15.456. The current bond millage rate is 1.178; it will also be rolled back slightly to 1.169.

Superintendent Randy Shearouse said the system is beginning to get more numbers in to create the budget and currently the board needs to look at staffing needs for the upcoming school year.

“We can’t wait until June to move forward with staffing, because then all the folks are hired,” he said.

It would then be difficult to find quality people to fill teaching positions. He said the board will continue with the budget process until June.

The estimated budget for the upcoming year in property tax revenue is $25.5 million. That is an increase over the 2008 estimate by $1.5 million.

The allotment from the state is also expected to increase during the 2009 budget year.

“You remember the equalization scare that we had that Effingham County was not going to get the equalization money that we desperately needed,” Shearouse said. “It was to the tune of about $900,000. That money was put back into the budget, and we are very appreciative of that.”

Shearouse said transportation has not yet been put in the state budget, but the funding is expected to be added.
“The only thing that I have to say about this is the governor does have to sign the budget, and it has not been signed yet,” he said. “These are projections, but it looks better than we’ve done in quite a while.”

Total revenue for the school system last year was $81.7 million and is $87.58 million this year, according to Shearouse.

“I know you look at those numbers and say, ‘wow, what an increase,’ and it is a lot of money as far as the increase you actually see,” he said.

The school system is having to put in $350,000 more for fuel for the next fiscal year because of fuel prices. School officials budgeted $550,000 last year and are going up to $900,000.

“I don’t see any relief on diesel fuel,” Shearouse said.

Shearouse said previously the system had not gone over its budget for fuel, but this year with fuel prices increasing, the system will go over budget, and he expects prices to continue to rise.

“We have to get a tanker every five days basically to fuel the buses. It used to be about $16,000, and now it’s about $26,000 every five days to fill the buses,” he said. “As our county continues to grow, we are adding more buses, too — therefore fuel prices go up.”

Shearouse said the state has called for 2.5 percent raises for employees and that is estimated to be an increase of $1,785,650.

He also asked the board to allow principals to begin looking for teachers to fill new positions that will be needed at the schools. Those positions include two elementary gifted and talented teachers, one middle and high school gifted and talented teacher, two remedial high school teachers, three remedial middle school teachers, five elementary teachers, one special education teacher, 1.5 speech therapists, eight art teachers, seven teachers at Effingham County High School and three teachers at South Effingham High School and a special education teacher to work with the Ombudsman program.

Shearouse said ECHS needs more teachers because of its larger enrollment.

“ECHS is projecting to have, and this is a high number, 525 ninth graders next year,” he said. “They’re trying to keep the integrity of the ninth grade program in place so if they add a team, that’s four teachers.”

He said he would also like the board to consider further into the budget process hiring a school social worker and two school nurses.

The board will continue to look at and adjust the budget during the upcoming months.