At the Morgan County School Board meeting Tuesday, residents will have a chance to voice their opinion at a public hearing regarding a tax increase. The agenda item will be heard at 7:10 p.m. at the district office, 230 East Young St.
If the board approves the proposal, the tax on a residence with an assessed value of $281,000 (the average market value of a home in the county) would increase by $20.09 per year. A business with the same market value would see an increase of $36.53 per year.
Superintendent Ken Adams said the district's request -- equaling a 2.2 percent increase in property tax revenue compared to last year -- came because of an increase in delinquent property taxes as well as a reduction in state education funding and federal entitlement programs.
"Now, the district is receiving fewer funds from state and federal sources and more and more individual tax payers are delinquent on their payments to the county," Adams said. "The board has a difficult decision to make."
Raising more tax revenue would help the district hire reading teachers at area elementary schools and meet debt services needs.
Last year, a teacher at Mountain Green Elementary School split her time between instruction in a regular third grade classroom and assisting students from all grade levels with reading skills. The principal said both the third graders and those needing special help with reading were suffering under the arrangement.
"The problem is compounded by the fact that state funding for the reading program at Morgan Elementary has also been reduced," Adams said. "Fewer resources mixed with greater numbers needing reading assistance could spell disaster for the future of some students who desperately need this additional help."
Adams said prudent financial management in past years has kept the district solvent and fully operational. However, reserve accounts are being depleted.
"At some point if the economy doesn't improve, taxes will have to be increased or services to students decreased," Adams said.
School officials anticipate that the proposal will meet with some resistance among residents.
"No one wants to see their property taxes increase in the best of times, let alone in times of economic challenge," Adams said. "On the other hand, no one wants to see a child suffer due to insufficient resources for an adequate reading program."