The Board of Education kept its maintenance and operations millage rate the same and lowered the millage on school bonds at Monday’s meeting. The millage rates passed with 4-0 votes, with District 2 member D.T. Jackson absent.
Maintenance and operations, which accounts for a large majority of school taxes, remained at 19.85 mills.
However, the rate on school bonds, which is a separate line item on your tax bill, dropped from 2.1 mills to 1.8 mills, a decrease of 14.29 percent.
In actual savings, the decrease on school bonds equals about $12 for a $100,000 house and $24 for a $200,000 home, according to Greg Denney, the school system’s CFO.
The board dropped the bond rate from 4.1 mills to 2.1 mills last year and decreased the maintenance and operations millage rate from the state cap of 20 mills down to 19.85 mills two years ago.
“Promises made, promises kept,” Superintendent Dr. Gordon Pritz said after the vote.
Denney said the decrease in the bond millage rate was part of the system’s plan when the ESPLOST passed in 2011. He said board wanted to use half of the funds from the ESPLOST to pay down bond debt and half for new projects.
“That half that’s paying the debt back has allowed the school system to lower this millage rate, which takes the burden off the property owners and puts it on SPLOST, which is the sales tax,” said Denney.
The system secured $150 million through bonds in 2007. That money will be payed back over 20 years. Denney said the current bond debt stands at $141,980,000.
The board also heard a presentation on how student grades are awarded.
The results from a survey of students, parents and teachers shows that the vast majority of parents and teachers are critical of the 3-2-1 grading system for elementary students. Teachers and parents would prefer a grading system using a letter grade or percentage-based system across the school district instead.
Middle school students, parents and teachers largely feel that the grading system in place is fair. Parents and teachers who took the survey feel the 3-2-1 system puts elementary students at a disadvantage by the time they reach middle school, because, according to the report, “they learn that they do not have to work hard to get a satisfactory grade.”
Parents in middle school and high school see the Common District Assessments (CDAs) as areas of concern.
High school students and parents who took the survey want to see more extra credit opportunities, while teachers don’t see the district’s curriculum as rigorous enough and hence a majority oppose extra credit opportunities and make-up tests and quizzes.
The system’s grading committee will review the results this fall and draft guidelines based on the results. The committee will present its recommendations to Pritz early next year with implementation planned for the 2014-15 school year.
Pritz met some of the annual requirements of his contract, which was renewed for three years last month. One minor change was also made.
Pritz was to provide the board with information about professional associations he is a member of. He also is required to provide the board proof of his medical fitness to perform his job. The board signed off on receiving that information as part of the consent agenda.
The section of Pritz’s contract dealing with annual leave was updated so that if he gives notice he intends to retire or resign, he will be paid for unused days “as regular contract salary.”
The board also signed off on allowing Pritz to become an adjunct professor at Central Michigan University. Pritz said he will teach an online graduate course and will not do it on school time or using school property.