At the end of nearly two-hour meeting, Michelle Harrison stood up and called out to board chairman John Darden that although she appreciated the board’s efforts in Atlanta, she felt the school system was not doing anything to fix the problems.
“Obviously, we’re not getting anything from (the state), and that is unfair and I understand that, but we can cry about how unfair that is all day long, we need to do something locally,” she said in the crowded board room. “Are we going to discuss what we’re going to do locally for this issue?”
Darden replied: “Currently, we are working on all options and ideas that we can get. All I need is six million dollars.”
Patrick Arrington, who said he has a child and grandchild in the school system, angrily told board members they could be “privitized,” like the school system did with its food services by contracting with Sodexo, and “just do away with government.”
Darden told Arrington the meeting was closed. The board was moving into a closed meeting to hear a student discipline appeal.
“Just remember pal, we pay the salaries for ya’ll,” Arrington told Darden. “We’ve all got the right to vote. You can go out too.”
“Yes sir,” Darden replied, as the board adjourned.
After the meeting, Harrison said the arts are really important to her two children in the school system. It offers an enjoyable and creative outlet for children who work hard on standardized tests that “make the school board look good.”
“But that’s the first thing we take from them,” she said, referring to the proposal to cut all art and music teachers at the elementary level. “Plus, the teachers who work hard for them.”
Arrington said that although he didn’t have a problem with the proposal to cut elective courses, he felt the core academics needed to be strengthened. He said the problem with the school system was over-dependence on government funds.
“It’s a local-level issue of social security,” he said. “If it helps to privatize the lunch room system, why not privatize the board?”
Darden, Troup County School System Superintendent Cole Pugh and school system Chief Financial Officer Don Miller went Tuesday with former legislator Jeff Brown and current state Rep. Randy Nix, along with a group of other local leaders, to meet with the governor’s staff about the school system’s shortfall in state funds.
For the upcoming fiscal year, the school system is being underfunded by the state in transportation and getting less in Quality Basic Education funds. However, the big factor is equalization funding, which went from an estimated $6.2 million for Troup schools to nothing in the 2013 fiscal year after the state increased the county’s wealth ranking.
The county moved up the ranks because the state bases its wealth on the tax base, which increased because of the opening of Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia and its suppliers. Miller said the problem is the tax formula the state received didn’t take into account the tax abatements on the plant and suppliers.
Miller said the formula the state received showed an increase from just under $5.4 billion in property in 2009 to about $6.5 billion, which is attributed to Kia and its suppliers. However, the value of the plants should be abated from 50 to 95 percent, so the actual taxable value shouldn’t have increased near that much.
He said that the school system today may find out from an auditor if there is an error in the tax base estimation that can be corrected with the state. If the they can show that the abatements were not correctly factored in to the original information sent to the state, the state would reconsider the amount of equalization funding.
Matthew Strother can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-884-7311, ext. 229.