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BOE Hopes Proposed Millage Rate Will Help Dade Receive Equalization Funding

News Editor

On August 14, the Dade County Board of Education held two public hearings about the proposed millage rate of 14.000. No citizens (aside from the Sentinel) attended the meetings.

Similar to the county’s millage rate, the school board’s rate has decreased in recent years while the dollar amount of taxes collected has increased. Superintendent Josh Ingle covered this information at the 11:30 a.m. hearing, reporting that the millage rate was 15.330 in 2020, 14.388 in 2021, and 14.200 last year.

Ingle explained that the budget was approved before the board received the tax digest information, saying, “This budget was based on everything remaining the same. At that time, [the budget] had a $970,000 deficit.”

Ingle recommended a 14.000 millage rate, rather than the rollback rate of 12.898, saying, “We would collect about $155,000 more than last year if we go with the rollback rate, but I’m hesitant to go below 14.000 because we then take ourselves out of the equalization formula. We are trying to maximize all opportunities [to earn] state funding.”

The state only considers school systems with millage rates of 14.000 and above to be eligible for equalization funding. In simplified terms, the state takes 5.000 mills from every school system and redistributes this money via equalization funds to the school systems deemed to be the most needy. Dade County has historically been on the cusp, sometimes receiving equalization funds, and sometimes not.

Johnny Warren (Trenton District) noted that the board complained about the equalization formula several decades ago when it was first established. He said, “It was wrong then. The bigger plays like Gwinnett and Fulton, they really feasted on that because the formula helped them.”

Jayne Griffin (At-Large) noted, “[Dade] looks wealthier on paper than in actuality.”

The Sentinel asked for a further explanation of why higher millage rates are helpful when seeking equalization funding.

Ingle explained, “As the digest increases, [if we] lower our millage rate, we appear much more wealthy, whereas if we raised our millage rate with the assessment, we’re saying, ‘Yes, we need more revenue.’”

Griffin succinctly explained her understanding of the situation. “The state wants you to do as much as you can to collect as much as you can. Their cutoff is 14 mills. If you go below that, they won’t give you funding because their thought is, ‘You haven’t done what you needed to do to collect [the funds for the budget]. You could have raised the millage rate and collected it.’”

The third public hearing will be August 21 at 6 p.m. at the central office.

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