Millage rate hearings:
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, July 18, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A wide range of topics were discussed at Thursday night's Richmond County Board of Education meeting -- everything from tax increases to test scores to changes in school security.
The biggest issue affecting every person who lives in Richmond County is a tax increase, which equals about $40 on a $100,000 house.
They approved the rate officially and set public hearing dates, but that's not all.
Dr. Carol Rountree gave members a look at preliminary test scores, saying they're not as high as they want them to be but are improving.
Chief Alfonzo Williams suggested changes for the school safety division.
"Students will know that we're gonna have more coverage in our school. Schools will be safer, officers will be more efficient, they're gonna be more professional," Williams said.
That plan includes new training, new uniforms and an emergency preparedness officer.
"Be it a natural disaster or a school shooting, we're gonna have somebody dedicated to that full time," Williams said.
The issue that brought the most debate was once again the budget.
"We should not be waiting til the last minute like we waited this year. That was totally unacceptable," said Board President Venus Cain.
This year's budget was approved just a few weeks ago, but Cain is trying to make a change for next year.
"We actually don't know what every line item is in the budget, so my concern was we're approving a budget where we don't really know everything that's included," Cain said.
"I don't think you can make a decision, an excellent decision or even a good decision, when you don't have the information," added Jack Padgett from District 6.
Cain requested a line-by-line budget beginning in September to find out exactly where the money is going in every department.
"Anybody could squirrel away anything and we don't know because we aren't actually seeing it in writing," she said.
But some disagreed, saying going through each item in meetings would take hours and may lead to micromanaging.
Cain says they have a responsibility.
"We're talking about people's lives," she said "We're talking about people's families, and I want to be fair to the employees of the district."
Cain's recommendation was approved in the end, so they will be taking a more in-depth look at next year's budget. This year's is already approved, including that tax increase throughout the county.
They approved the dates for the millage rate hearings for noon and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 31, and the final will be at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 8.