Board to hold public meetings for school millage rate

SUWANEE - The Gwinnett County Board of Education will meet for the first of three public hearings on the adoption of the school millage rate Monday.

The school board is considering keeping the combined school rate at 20.55 mills for the third consecutive year to support the district's $1.7 billion budget for the 2007-08 school year. Two additional hearings are scheduled for 11:45 a.m. and 7 p.m. June 11.

The public hearings are designed to allow the public to address the board about topics relating to the school tax rate, said Sloan Roach, the school district's spokeswoman. The meeting also provides an opportunity for residents to learn about school taxes and find out how the millage rate is set, she said.

"Certainly we invite the public to attend any and all meetings that they can," Roach said.

The school millage rate is made up of two components: a maintenance and operations millage, which helps pay for the district's day-to-day operations, and the debt service millage, which will be used to pay down outstanding general obligation bonds used to fund school construction. Those rates have been proposed to be 19.25 mills and 1.3 mills, respectively.

None of the money collected for the debt service millage will be used to pay for bonds issued when voters in November passed the 1-percent education sales tax, said Rick Cost, the district's chief financial officer. The property tax will be used to pay for bonds issued before the education sales tax came into effect, while the bond approved in November to accelerate the schools' construction plan will be repaid as the sales tax receipts come in, he said.

During the public hearing, school system officials will provide an overview of the budget for the 2007-08 school year, and the public can address the board with questions and comments. A sign-up sheet will be provided at the meeting for those who wish to speak.

A copy of the adopted budget is also available for public review on the school system's Web site at www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us.