At the Dade County Board of Education's regular July meeting on Monday, Superintendent Jan Harris proposed a fiscal year 2020 rollback millage rate of 15.330, which, according to the super, “represents a decrease of taxes levied of negative 117,779.”
The July 22 meeting followed a required public hearing on the 2020 budget. Dr. Harris announced a special called meeting at 6 p.m. to approve the rate formally before it is presented to the Dade County Commission at its own special called meeting the same day at 6:30 p.m. The county commission collects the school tax for the B of E and charges a small percentage for doing so.
A "rollback" rate is one that lowers the millage rate so as to avoid collecting more taxes on an expanded tax base. The alternative is to "accept the growth," which allows taxing bodies to enjoy more revenue without raising their tax rates. But "accepting growth" does require the taxing authorities to advertise an increase and hold public hearings exactly as if they had raised tax rates, potentially making for an uncomfortable situation with taxpayers. For whatever reason, both the school board and county commision chose to roll back this year though in the school board's case it meant adopting a deficit budget of $25,872,834 in total revenues (including state and federal funding) with $26,468,752 of expenditures.
Besides the Aug. 8 millage rate meeting, here are some other dates Dr. Harris announced as summer vacation ends and the new school year begins with a rapidity that annually breaks the hearts of reluctant students:
Next Monday, July 29, the board will hold a special called meeting to hear about facilities, including traffic flow at Dade Middle School. "Institute," the school year opening ceremony for staff, faculty and community leaders, starts at 8 a.m. on Aug. 2. Then open house for parents and students is Aug 6 at Dade Elementary and Davis schools from 4:30-6 p.m., at Dade Middle and Dade High schools from 5-6:30 p.m. First day back to school for students is Aug. 7. "And we can’t wait to see our children," said the super. (The Planet would speculate that some students would rather wait a little longer to be seen.)
Again, the called board meeting for millage rate is 6 p.m. on Aug. 8; then the regular August meeting is at 5 p.m. on Aug. 19.
The board heard from school architect Ken Harless about the difficulties in store in the planned renovation of the old rock building at Davis Elementary. Harless explained that like many other aging school edifices, the rock building had been built before the advent of air conditioning. With air conditioning, water condensation formed inside the walls, causing havoc. There was also no insulation in the building and the floors were sagging, said Harless.
The roof might last another few years but Harless recommended going ahead and getting R done at the same time. Ditto the air conditioning system, which had been put in in 1990. “Thirty years for an air conditioning unit, you’re pretty lucky," said Harless. The windows obviously needed to be replaced, he said, and the bathrooms would have to be brought up to code. But that wasn't the worst of it.
“The biggest concern, I believe, is the electrical system in there," said Harless. "It’s not safe.” The wiring had been added to confusingly over the years, said Harless, describing it as a bewildering mass of live wires and an active source of peril.
Besides that, he said, the place was in pretty good shape. (Though later, in the facilities report, it emerged that Davis was to be treated for termites.)
School social worker Kristin Barrett told the board how the schools were working with churches and charitable organizations to provide seamless services for students who needed help with clothes or food to continue with their education. She reminded all that Jacob's Well had partnered with the schools to provide free haircuts and backpacks of school supplies for students at this weekend's "Touch a Truck" event. Touch a Truck is a free children's festival sponsored by the Trenton police and fire departments. It's in the parking lot of the new courts facility this Saturday, July 27, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
The board also heard a report about the services it contracted for, such as those for the visually impaired. In Georgia and nationwide, they were told, there was a new trend in mental health issues. It used to be math and reading needs that generated referrals to contracted services. "Today we're seeing a lot of kids who don't have the capacity to behave," the board learned.
After its usual executive, or closed-door, session on personnel, the board approved the following list of personnel changes: