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Baker County school board selects new millage rate after heated vote

Baker County resident Gabriel Ornelas speaks against a higher millage rate at Thursday's school board meeting. / Mary Green

Some Baker County residents and even a few school board members said they’re upset and concerned after a highly contested vote at Thursday night’s meeting ended with the board choosing to set the upcoming millage rate at the highest the state will allow without a public hearing.

Both rates on the table were rollbacks from last year, with the initial vote for a rate of 13.664, which would bring in $121 less than what the upcoming $1.9 million budget calls for.

Two board members, Lydia Burch and Malcolm Parker, voted in favor of that rate, but the other three, chair Janet Anderson, Bonnie Hudson and Brendette Williams, voted against it.

Williams then proposed the higher rate of 14.147, which was passed after she, Hudson and Anderson voted for it, with Burch and Parker objecting.

That rate would bring in $78,000 more than the budget requires, and Burch said there’s no reason to ask for that extra money when the lower rate would have covered it.

“The lower millage rate would still take care of our kids, who are our number one priority at the school, and it would not overburden and raise the taxes for the taxpayers of Baker County,” she said.

Three residents spoke in favor of the lower rate, while a fourth said she would be fine with paying a higher rate since the money is going to education.

One of the three against the higher rate, Gabriel Ornelas, said he and other residents now hope to see a change in the board’s makeup.

“With them setting this new millage rate, we have a concerned citizens group that will take the necessary steps and hopefully start the process of doing a recall on these three board members since they are neglecting these taxpayers,” he said.

Anderson declined an on-camera interview, but said she and the two other members voted in favor of the higher rate because they haven’t received previous years’ audits back, so she said they don’t know how much money they have in reserve at this time.

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