Morgan County School officials are in the process of forming the budget for the next fiscal year. Details for the Fiscal Year 2022 have not been finalized but the Morgan County Board of Education is confident that they will be able to adopt the rollback rate for property taxes this summer.
“We should be able to adopt the rollback rate,” said Dr. Forest Pagett, a member of the Morgan County Board of Education.
“We are in good shape right now,” added Pagett, who updated the BOE during Monday night’s monthly regular meeting.
Since voters passed the latest ESPLOST (Education Special Project Local Option Sales Tax) in November 2020, the financial pressure has eased on the school system. ESPLOST will be used to help pay off the $50 million in debt from building the new high school, the new college and career academy and new middle school, along with other school infrastructure update projects.
In prior years, ESPLOST has enabled the school system to adopt the rollback millage rate. School officials believe that, too, will be the case this year.
“The good thing about an ESPLOST is it is paid for in part by people who live outside Morgan County,” said Dr. Virgil Cole, superintendent of Morgan County Schools after the ESPLOST was passed in November. “Non-residents and out-of-country visitors pay over 60 percent of local sales taxes,” said a statement from the school system.
SPLOST collections are up this year, bringing in a total of $3,891,887 from July 2020 through March 2021. Last fiscal year, SPLOST brought in more than $4.3 million for the fiscal year. This year’s SPLOST collections are poised to bring in even more, according to school officials.
In addition to soaring SPLOST collections, the school system is poised to receive $4.7 million through the latest Coronavirus relief bill, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“We won’t get it all at once, but in chunks moving forward,” explained Superintendent Dr. Virgil Cole.
Cole said the school system is still exploring to best use the money through Fiscal Year 2023. Cole said some of the possibilities include technology updates, maintenance updates, transportation improvements, retention pay and bonuses for school employees, and even new musical instruments for the band program.
“We are still in the early stages of looking at what we can do with this money,” said Cole. However Cole cautioned that while SPLOST collections are up and relief money is coming in, the state is cutting back some funding.
“We are in a good place, but with the state cutting some of our funding, some of the money coming in is backfill from what is being cut right now,” said Cole.