Public gives input of proposed SCCPSS budget

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Taxpayers had their first chance Tuesday to voice their opinions about a proposed millage rate increase to help fund the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.

SCCPSS board members unanimously and tentatively adopted a 2.25 millage rate increase in Fiscal Year 2019, making the district's total proposed millage rate 18.881, and Tuesday's two public hearings allowed community members, like Joan Schaaf, to talk to board members about concerns face-to-face.

"You need to think carefully about raising taxes and millage rates because you are hurting a great deal of people," Schaaf, who has lived on Whitemarsh Island for 55 years, said.

Currently, someone with a $187,500 home and a state homestead exemption pays just over $1,214 in total school taxes. If the school board adopts the proposed increase, that same homeowner would pay about $164 more per year or a little more than $13 per month in school taxes. That property owner would pay a more than $1,378 in total school taxes.

"You are going to hurt a lot of people with this tax increase, and I hope you will all carefully reconsider it," said Marianne Heimes, another concerned citizen.

Schaaf said many senior citizens in her neighborhood are on a fixed income and can't afford that increase.

"This increase in taxes is taxing them out of their homes," she said.

The proposed increased millage rate covers an 11 percent increase in state health costs and a 4 percent increase in state retirement funding - two unfunded state mandates. It also builds the district's emergency fund, which it's had to use recently for hurricane repairs, funds more school safety and student wellbeing staff and covers Savannah's fire fee.

Some board members say the community should support spending for students.

"A budget to help our children become successful adults," said Connie Hall, SCCPSS board member for District 3.

Even as a retired public school educator, Schaff said she does not support this increase.

School board members can reduce the millage rate increase before their final vote on June 20. There is also a final public hearing on June 20 at 6 p.m. at the Whitney Administrative complex at 2 Laura Avenue ahead of the board's vote.

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