Hiking property taxes for the second year in a row must be the last resort of the Savannah-Chatham School Board to balance next year’s budget for the school district.
The board’s first move should be to cut expenses and do a better job of spending the local and state revenue it currently receives to educate its 37,000 students. Simply balancing next year’s proposed $530.75 million budget on the backs of property owners is taking the easy way out — by raising the current millage rate from 16.631 mills to 17.131 mills. Instead, elected board members should do some heavy lifting of their own — going through the budget and making sure that every expense item is necessary and to look for any fluff that can be removed. There’s no evidence that the school board has done anything more than express a willingness to hike property taxes by 3 percent, which they did Wednesday by tentatively adopting a $530.75 million budget and boosting the millage rate by .5 mills.
To avoid this 3 percent increase in the millage, the school board would have to trim an estimated $1 million in expenses. While that’s a big number, it’s not an insurmountable task in a budget of this size.