FY24 Budget Process Explanation

NCSS Explains Budget Process for FY 2024
Posted on 04/24/2023
Budget FY 2024The Newton County School System leadership team is in the process of preparing the annual budget for the 2023-2024 school year, with the final budget scheduled to be adopted by the school board in June 2023. Preparing a budget is a lengthy process. In fact, district administrators began the fiscal year 2024 budget planning in January and held a special budget meeting in March to begin
discussions with members of the board of education. While the budget planning process ends in June when the board of education approves the final budget, the millage rate for FY 24 will not be set until July. If necessary, the district will host three required public meetings to discuss and finalize the millage rate.

Importantly, Newton County School System’s tax distributions only recently reached and exceeded the 2008 tax revenue level; that means it took more than ten years for the tax digest to recover from the impact of the recession of 2009. As such, the school system has operated for more than a decade with less local funds than received in 2008.

Funding a school system is a partnership between the state and local communities. Currently, the state provides funding for health insurance for our certified staff; however, the local community is tasked with picking up the tab for our non-teaching staff, also known as classified staff. These team members include bus drivers, school nutrition workers, custodians, clerical staff, bus mechanics, and more. Recently, the state notified the school system of an additional budget expense due to a significantly increased cost of employee health insurance. While the state will fund the increase for certified staff, the local taxpayers will fund the added expense of our classified staff. Currently, the school system’s portion of the health insurance premium is $945 per employee per month for a total of $11,340 per year for every classified employee who participates in the State Health Benefit plan. Going forward, the figure will increase each year over the next three years to reach a total of $1,580 per employee per month and result in a new district-paid annual premium of $18,960 per classified team member—this figure does not include the premium employees pay monthly. Based on the school system’s current number of participants, this change results in an unexpected increase in expenditures of more than $1,000,000 for the district in FY24.
Health Insurance Expense Breakdown
STAFF    FY23 
Classified   $945/Employee   $1,580/Employee   $11,340/Employee   $18,960/Employee   Local Revenue
Certified   $945/Employee   $1,580/Employee   $11,340/Employee   $18,960/Employee   State Revenue

Recently, Newton County property owners received their property assessments from the Newton County Tax Assessor’s Office; and although school system staff were told there would only be a slight increase in property values, we are now aware that the values have, after our analysis and feedback from the community, increased significantly. It is important to note that the school system is provided this information by the Newton County Tax Commissioner’s Office once the tax digest is finalized. Historically, the district has received the information in May, but over the last few years, this information has been delayed. The current school system millage rate, which was set in July 2022, is 16.788 mills—this is the lowest millage rate for our school system in the last 25 years.
The tax assessor’s valuation of property takes place around this time every year; school system staff and school board members are not involved in the assessing of property values. The recently mailed property assessment represents next fiscal year’s collections (FY 24) and was generated by our local tax assessor. The tax assessor increased the value of many properties in Newton County, which when applying our current millage (16.788), results in an increase in taxes. Estimated values increased because the property value increased, not because the school system has made a change. As a matter of fact, the school board members won’t even vote on a new millage rate until July 2023! The tax assessor’s office drives the rate of increase in taxes through property values—which has little to do with millage rates.
For example, in Fiscal Year 23, if your property was valued at $100,000 and you paid $16.788 dollars for every $1000 dollars, you would pay $1678.80. In Fiscal Year 24, if your property value increases by $50,000 to $150,000 you would still pay $16.788 dollars on the new value for every $1000 dollars totaling $2,518.29. While this is a simplistic version of the system, it demonstrates clearly that each time the property value increases, although the tax rate remains the same, the total tax increases. This is why the tax assessor plays a significant role in determining a property owner’s tax liability.

As you can see, in the chart below, the “tax rate” remained the same, but because the property value increased, the tax liability increased.
Tax Rate Explanation
FY 23--$100,000   $16.788 per $1,000   $1,678.80
FY 24 --$150,000   $16.788 per $1,000   $2,518.20

As excellent stewards of taxpayer funds, school system staff and board members have recommended a reduction in the millage rate in the last three previous fiscal years. The Newton County School System team recognizes that increasing property values are a burden to the property tax paying community; however, it is important to remember that the increased tax assessments property owners are experiencing is as a result of the tax assessor’s valuation of the property at the current millage rate approved in July 2022. This property tax assessment does not reflect the millage rate determinations school board members will make in July 2023.

Newton County School System staff and the members of the Newton County Board of Education work diligently to be good stewards of tax-payer dollars. Meetings of the Newton County Board of Education are held monthly and are open to the public. The final proposed general fund budget will be published in The Covington News in the month of May with the school board scheduled to discuss and adopt a final budget in June and a millage rate in July. In the meantime, property owners with concerns regarding their current tax assessments are encouraged to reach out to the Newton County Tax Assessor’s Office for more information or to file an appeal. Appeal forms can be found at https://dor.georgia.gov/pt-311a-appeal-assessment-form