Increasing school tax is on table

Richmond County school board members could vote to raise taxes when they hold a special called meeting today.

Superintendent Dana Bedden said Wednesday afternoon that numbers are still being crunched and no specific recommendation had been determined, but a small increase is needed to fund the budget approved last month.

The board must also prepare for the possibility of even more state funding cuts, which could come with growing talk of a special session of the General Assembly, Dr. Bedden said.

Last year, the school board raised the millage to the cap, but the cap is calculated each year based on growth in the tax digest. The digest shrank this year, which means the cap went up.

"People forget that we pay higher prices for gas and food, too," Dr. Bedden said, adding that Richmond County isn't paying for most of the cost to educate children. "As long as we're depending on the state and federal government, we're going to have problems."

But a tax increase could prove difficult.

"It's going to be hard to get it passed by me," said Frank Dolan, the chairman of the board's finance committee. "I'm going to vote against it. I'm going to campaign against it between then and now."

Mr. Dolan said he doesn't support raising taxes a penny.

Board Vice President Alex Howard is also opposed.

"In this environment, taxpayers are having a hard enough time as it is," Mr. Howard said. "This is not the time or place to be raising people's taxes."

Board member Venus Cain said she is hesitant to take a position before getting all the information, but she also opposes higher taxes.

"It's going to be hard pressed for me to push for a tax increase. Times are bad," Mrs. Cain said. "Do you give adults what they want and shortchange the kids, or do you give the kids what they want and shortchange the adults?"

The board will meet at 3 p.m. today at its central offices, 864 Broad St. The meeting is open to the public.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

SCHOOL MILLAGE

Richmond County -- 19.342

Columbia County -- 17.09