A proposed tax increase drew the attention during the public input meeting on the 2012-13 budget held June 5 by Aiken County Public Schools.
The tentative budget calls for a 4.6-mill school operating tax increase that would raise the current operating tax rate from 131.6 mills to 136.2 mills. The increase would not affect primary residences. If adopted, it would be the first time in two years the school board has increased the millage for school operations.
The tentative budget doesn’t include an increase in the debt service millage, but it calls for several changes: a 2 percent increase for all employees; an additional 2 percent increase for assistant principals, bringing their total to a 4 percent increase in salary; creation of three curriculum coach positions, two educational technology positions and a volunteer coordinator position; and one-time funding for completion of wireless overlay, platform migration and textbooks and instruction supplies for Advance Placement classes.
The budget also eliminates four middle school reading intervention positions because of the lottery funding for the positions no longer being sufficient, and reflects a state-mandated increase in employer retirement contribution rates and employer health insurance premiums.
The proposed millage increase, along with the fund balance for one-time costs, will be used to cover the changes, said Tray Traxler, the district’s comptroller.
Aiken resident Debbie Nix was among those who opposed the millage increase. Nix is a real estate agent and owns a plumbing, electrical, heating and air condition business and a vacation properties business. She said she feels that the increase will hurt small businesses and their customers.
“As business owners, we have to make a profit, which is really hard right now,” she said. “Small businesses are not enjoying the supposed recovery right now. ... Anytime we have an increase in materials, an increase in gas prices, our taxes have to be passed on to the customer for us to be able to survive.”
Though several spoke against the increase, Aiken resident Cindy Besson is in favor of it.
“We need the money to improve the technology, the buildings and the tech support for the teachers,” said Besson, a local physician and the president of the Aiken High School PTSA. “They have not raised the millage in a couple of years, so they need to … It costs money to fund schools and we as taxpayers have to pay the taxes to be able to provide for the schools.”
School board member Keith Liner said the big misconception about the millage increase is that the average homeowner will be affected.
“For the average homeowner, it won’t cost them anything for their primary residence, but it will for their cars, boats, trucks and things like that,” he said.
As for the tentative budget items, he said he feels “comfortable” with what’s in the budget.
“I think the things that affect student achievement are the most important things to emphasize, like computer technology and curriculum coaches,” he said.
The school board held a public hearing for the budget and millage Tuesday. The 2012-13 budget is scheduled to be adopted June 26.
To view the complete tentative budget, visit acps.schoolfusion.us.