Citizens speak out on proposed school system millage rate

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2022

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On Monday, the Troup County School Board held two millage rate hearings — one at the administration building on Davis Road and another at West Point Elementary School.

Both included a handful of speakers, who spoke out against the school system’s millage rate of 18.85, which isn’t changing but will result in more money to TCSS due to the rising property values across the county. The LDN attended the meeting in West Point.

Some speakers said their property value had gone up as much as 40% to 50% since last year, which will result in a significant increase in the property tax they owe.

Superintendent Brian Shumate presented on the millage rate at the start of the hearing, explaining that about 60% of the school system’s budget is from state revenue and 40% is via local property taxes. He said he and the board were listening as they considered where to set the millage rate.

“Equity in your home means absolutely nothing if you can’t afford to keep your home. That’s what I’m afraid of,” said speaker Andrew Barrett. “I know people who are selling their home right now in Troup County because they can’t afford the cost of living. They can’t support the increase — the inflation.”

Another speaker, Phillip Schultz, said if there isn’t some rollback in the millage rate, parents are going to have to spend more time at work — and away from their kids — trying to make ends meet.

“That’s going to result in a loss of time that these parents have to spend with their children. This will result in more latchkey children …. I think the tax rates going up the way they are with the inflation issue we have, we are going to see more and more parents having to make that hard decision of going into work, pulling those extra shifts to keep themselves treading water,” Schultz said. “And I think we’re going to see a deterioration in our children’s mental and possibly physical health because their parents are not able to be there.”

During his two minutes to speak, West Point Mayor Steve Tramell turned around and spoke to the audience, telling those in attendance to shift their frustration to the county government, not the school board.

He noted that citizens in West Point pay a county and city tax, bringing up a subject that was discussed during Service Delivery Strategy agreement.

“The county is taking money from the citizens of West Point and not providing services for the money they take,” Tramell said. “We are paying for services we don’t see. We should have a separate tax district.”

He encouraged citizens to show up to the county meeting July 5.

Board member Joe Franklin said his vote will also take into account that the school system has to provide for the children of Troup County. He noted that at some point he expects property values to go the other way, meaning if the millage rate is lowered now, a future board may have to raise it.

“We’re going to do what we can with it. You’re in the right place,” Franklin said to those in attendance. “And again, we’re all part of you. We all had tax increases too.”

Every board member that spoke noted that they were also dealing with higher property taxes.

Board member Brandon Brooks said he encouraged anyone with a solution to come forward.

“We all need some help, but please understand with this, if you have a solution — I’m not on social media — but I’ve heard a lot of people have the solution. Don’t assume we know the solution. Don’t assume we know your idea. Reach out to one of us on this board.”

No one at the West Point meeting spoke in favor of the millage rate remaining the same.

The third and final hearing on the millage rate will be July 7 at the administrative services center board room located at 100 North Davis Road at 5 p.m.