Marion County commissioners voted unanimously at this morning’s commission meeting to place a millage rate increase on the ballot that would help restore salaries to teachers in programs such as art, music and media.
The property tax would collect about $60 million over a four-year period to help offset expenses in a county that’s seen numerous education cuts since the recession began in 2007.
“For the last seven years, we have been really just cutting to the bone in reference to the school system,” said school board Chairman Bobby James at the meeting.
Toward the end of the four-year period, James said the board will come up with solutions to bridge the expense gap.
“We will be looking at an innovative way to provide the kids with a quality service,” he said, adding that in the past, the board has considered laying off more than 250 people and cutting the school week to four days to balance the budget.
Superintendent George Tomlin said the rate increase could also help restore the board’s fund balance, or savings account.
“We have essentially decimated our fund balance,” he said. “And we believe that this will help us grow that savings account up to a respectable amount.”
Many residents have suggested the Commission implement a sales tax instead, similar to one voted forward in the 1990s used to build new schools, said school board spokesman Kevin Christian in an interview.
“But you cannot use a sales tax to pay salaries,” he said.