Savannah-Chatham Public Schools propose tax increase

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System might be forced to raise county taxes.

The school board met Wednesday night to discuss the FY 2019 budget. Unfunded mandates from the state, such as a four percent teacher retirement rate increase of $9.8 million and a classified health insurance rate increase totaling $1.1 million were big factors.

However, other additional adjustments including $600,000 for the mandated city fire fee will cost county taxpayers to cover city funds.

"One of the reasons we are looking at a millage rate increase is absolutely the fire fee," said SCCPSS Board President Jolene Byrne.

She said this is over 1/2 a million dollars that have to come from somewhere, and they have and will continue to reach out to the city for some leniency.

"Maybe if they look at this impact and how this is really passing on a burden for city services to the entire county, they may reconsider," Byrne said.

Savannah-Chatham County Schools Superintendent Ann Levett would also be affected directly by this tax increase.

"As a property owner myself, I am concerned," Levett said.

He also claimed the proposed 1.2 millage increase wouldn't cost taxpayers more than $100 a year.

"While that's not zero, I think it is pretty low," she added.

The school system has also budgeted almost $778,000 to be used to install metal detectors in schools.

"We can't look at what's going on around the country and think that it's acceptable to let anyone walk in through the door without some sort of screening," Byrne said.

They hope to receive grant money for this added safety feature, but Levett says there is no price too high when it comes to safety. She said, "Safety is - one - inconvenient, and sometimes it costs a lot, but I would rather apologize for you being inconvenienced and for you thinking we're spending too much money on something than to apologize because we haven't exercised all the options we should."

The final budget adoption is expected on June 20.

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