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In an attempt to reach a compromise that might stand a better chance at being accepted by the County Commission, the Franklin County Board of Education unanimously approved a budget request Monday that includes a 7-cent property tax increase. The board has been trying to develop a budget that will have at least $2.4 million as a reserve fund balance at the end of June to carry over into the new fiscal year.
The ideal reserve fund number, according to board members, would be $3 million.
However, an option the board was looking at to reach that number would have involved a 33-cent tax increase — an $82.50 annual property tax increase on a $100,000 home, or $6.87 added to a monthly mortgage escrow account payment.
Instead, the 7-cent tax increase would cost an additional $17.50 annually — $1.45 monthly — upping the current $667.50 property tax bill on a $100,000 home to $685.
The budget request the School Board approved includes keeping Franklin County High School’s block class schedule and paying an annual bonus to full-time certifi ed employees working 260 days a year who would be having their insurance paid at 90 percent by the school system for single coverage instead of the full amount.
Classified employees, such as in food service who work 180 days a year for the school system, have been getting 90 percent of their monthly insurance premiums paid while full-time certified employees, working 260 days a year, have had their insurance paid at 100 percent.
The Affordable Care Act is requiring that employees be compensated at the same level.
The board has discussed potentially placing all employees at the 90 percent level. Estimates are that it would save about $300,000 annually.
Board member Chris Mc-Donough has said it would be penalizing employees who have been at the 100 percent level because they would have to make up a $54 monthly difference.
The board agreed the bonus money would pick up the $54 monthly gap for current system teachers. However, newly hired employees would not get the bonus.
The board has discussed reducing Franklin County High School’s block class schedule to seven periods a day to save money amid tight financial times, but several county commissioners who will be voting to fund the system said at a recent meeting to leave it as is.
Dr. Rebecca Sharber, director of schools, said the system hasn’t had an increase in annual appropriations from the commission in 10 years. She said that, although state law requires the system of have at least $1.2 million in reserve status, the board has had to dip further into its savings during the past several years to balance the school system budget, which is estimated to total $42.39 million.
Estimates are that changing from a high school block schedule to seven periods a day would save about $250,000 annually by reducing 14 employee positions through attrition, relocation at other system schools and retirement.
Sharber has said no one would be losing their job.
She said Monday that Huntland had made a similar change, and FCHS will be faced with the same problem next year.
Board member Mike Holmes had initially moved to adopt the budget with the 33-cent tax increase to open the issue up for discussion.
Kevin Caroland, board chairman, said, realistically, the County Commission, when it considers the funding request at its July meeting, would be highly unlikely to go along with a 33-cent tax hike.
Board members agreed that something more reasonable, like the 7-cent increase, would more likely gain support from the commission.