While nobody said it directly, the county commission’s message to the school board came through loud and clear Monday night: find a way to make a payment toward the county’s debt. Under a 1999 agreement, the school board has been paying a little more than $1 million each year toward debt from the last school building program. Heading into this year’s budget process, Mayor Bob Rial and Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks had agreed to reduce that payment by about $250,000. However, the proposed budget approved by the school board completely removes that payment. Rial’s budget for county debt service includes a $799,000 anticipated payment. As the Budget and Budget Advisory committees reviewed the school system budget Monday night, it was clear the county still wants that payment. Rial said it will take about a 12-cent property tax hike to generate an additional million dollars. Through savings realized through the year and with the restructuring of the county’s debt, Rial said he was comfortable reducing the debt payment by about $250,000 this year and “confident” it could be reduced again next year in what he called “a graceful dismount” from the payment agreement. But if the entire payment is dropped this year, Rial said it could result in an 8-9-cent increase in the property tax rate. While he asked the Budget Committee to forward the schools and other county budgets on to a public hearing on July 1 to “keep the process moving forward,” Rial said he does not “have a level of comfort” in voting for the school system proposal. Weeks said he would present some recommended changes to the school board at its June 27 meeting and be back with a revised budget at the July 1 meeting.