SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - UPDATE: The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System board unanimously voted to tentatively approve the 2.25 millage rate increase.
The board can lower rate but can't increase it before the final vote on June 20.
The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System Budget Committee proposed a 2.25 millage rate increase Monday to pay for its 2018-2019 fiscal year budget.
The total proposed millage rate for the 2019 fiscal year is 18.881 mills.
"When you look at the largest counties in Georgia, we're 33rd in the ranking of the small and large counties," said Larry Jackson, chief financial officer for SCCPSS. "In the large counties, we are the smallest of the 15 largest counties, and if you look at all 159 counties, we are the 33rd highest milage rate."
A major portion of that will pay for unfunded state mandates, including teacher retirement and benefit rate increases.
"All districts are in the same boat, and statewide, we're all looking for ways to try to fund that increase," Jackson said. "It's not as high as the fees they are incurring from other municipalities. However, we believe that taxpayers will support us and support the funding for education that's very much needed."
A four-percent teacher retirement rate increase will cost SCCPSS $9.8 million, and the state health benefits rate increase will cost just over $1 million.
"Those are very critical to us and for those who work with us or have worked with us," said Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett. "Those are unfunded mandates that number into the millions, so they have a really big impact."
The district said many think Savannah's fire fee is the cause of the increase, but Levett says SCCPSS was already planning to propose a higher millage rate.
"The fire fee was like a latecomer to this game," she said.
Jackson said the district is also pre-planning for another retirement rate increase for the 2020 fiscal year.
Board members will tentatively vote on a preliminary budget Wednesday and approve a final budget on June 20.