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September 10--  Only a handful of people showed up for two Toombs County school board public hearings on a property tax increase.

According to School Superintendent Dr. Kim Corley, "I think it was four or five people who came to the first one and we had zero people at the second one."

The school board is increasing property taxes by more than 33% over what they would have been had the board decided to roll back the millage rate due to an increase in the Toombs County tax digest.

Dr. Corley says the school system can't afford the rollback due to increases in things such as health insurance and decreases in state funding.

She expects an increase of $350,000 in health insurance.

At the same time, Dr. Corley reports state funding has decreased by more than $6 million in the last five years despite increased enrollment.

The end result is the school system has used up its reserves and needs new tax revenue to meet expenses.

"I don't look for us to be able to recoup fund equity.  So we won't be building up fund equity, but we'll be using the money to pay for expenses that in the past we paid with fund equity," she says.

The school system budget for fiscal year 2014 projects a reserve of only $52,400.

The increase of 2.4 mils will bring the Toombs County school property tax rate to 13.956 mils.  Dr. Corley says that should help the system qualify for more state funding in the next two years.

"Usually if you go up in the millage rate, it's about two years before you actually see that additional funding coming in on equalization.

"We're hoping this will help with our local fair share.  This increase does not get us to where we should be, that would have been a little more than 15 mils, however, considering the reassessed property values, we're not to impose any more than we actually have to," Dr. Corley promised.

The final public hearing on the tax increase is Monday morning at 8 a.m. at the board's central office in Lyons.  The board will hold a called meeting at 9 a.m. to vote on the increase.