PRI­OR­I­TIES

The Covington News - - Lo­cal news -

con­cerned with is­sues that fo­cused on lo­cal power, the econ­omy and tax­ing that pro­vides fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tion from the state and lo­cal lev­els.

“The board has de­lib­er­ated over these is­sues for a while and they were passed by the board at the Nov. 18 meet­ing. We re­al­ize that there is a state and lo­cal bud­get crunch.” What­ley said. “…And when we re­ceive cuts and we’ve been told to ex­pect any­where from a 2 per­cent cut or more in this fis­cal year’s bud­get, which means that we could lose from op­er­a­tion right now $2 mil­lion or more. So it is a ma­jor con­cern for us as we face this year.”

Max­i­mum class size re­quire­ments

The school board said it sup­ports leg­is­la­tion that would in­crease the cur­rent max­i­mum class by three stu­dents or an ef­fort to roll back the max­i­mum class size to the 2006 fis­cal year re­quire­ment. The board also asked that a waiver be ap­proved for class sizes that ex­ceed the cur­rent max­i­mum of 20 stu­dents.

“We don’t want to pack kids in like sar­dines, that’s not our in­ten­tion. But re­al­iz­ing that one stu­dent can cause, with­out waivers, can cause a class to be over would ne­ces­si­tate space and a teacher, and those are ex­pen­sive items,” What­ley said.

Tax re­form

The board sup­ports tax re­form which is fair, ad­e­quate, sta­ble and trans­par­ent. It also asked that the QBE ( qual­ity ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion) for­mula, which is used to de­cide on fund­ing for each school district, take into con­sid­er­a­tion av­er­age per capita in­come, per­cent­age of stu­dents on free and re­duced lunch, and the num­ber of tax­pay­ers who live near or be­low the poverty level. The cur­rent for­mula is based on av­er­age real es­tate prop­erty val­ues, said What-

ley.

State tax pol­icy

The board sup­ports a tax pol­icy that ad­dresses the con­tin­ued loss in the state’s rev­enue base as a re­sult of tax ex­emp­tions. The board also sup­ports a mora­to­rium on fu­ture leg­is­la­tion that fur­ther di­min­ishes the rev­enue base un­til a pol­icy can be adopted that ad­dresses its im­pact.

“We can’t keep re­mov­ing sources of in­come through some sort of tax (cut) and still pro­vide ser­vices for trans­porta­tion, for ed­u­ca­tion, for health and so forth,” What­ley said.

Im­pact of tax leg­is­la­tion

What­ley said the board does not sup­port any res­o­lu­tion to elim­i­nate ad val­orem taxes for ed­u­ca­tion, leg­is­la­tion that would limit the amount of tax rev­enue the state could col­lect and spend nor prop­erty tax freezes.

“What we are con­cerned about is that at this time, where there are a lot of fore­clo­sures, and the value of prop­erty is down, then the amount of money a mil as­sess­ment brings in is a lot less. So if it’s frozen at this level and is main­tained at this level, then it be­comes in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult, when ex­penses are in­creased, to get money as rev­enue,” What­ley said.

Au­thor­ity over lo­cal funds

The board does not sup­port leg­is­la­tion that de­ter­mines how lo­cal funds are used and it does sup­port leg­is­la­tion that re­peals the Class­rooms First for Ge­or­gia Act, which de­ter­mines how 65 per­cent of funds re­ceived by school sys­tems are spent.

“When we talk about salaries, those are made up, for cer­ti­fied folks, what they earn based on their teach­ing cer­tifi­cate and years of ex­pe­ri­ence plus a lo­cal sup­ple­ment that we add to. And we have to be com­pet­i­tive with the likes of Rock­dale, Wal­ton, Gwin­nett and DeKalb coun­ties in at­tract­ing staff. So, that is ex­tremely im­por­tant to us,” What­ley said.

Cur­rently, 53 per­cent of NCSS’ bud­get comes from state funds, while the other 43 per­cent is picked up lo­cally.

Gover­nance is­sues

The board sup­ports a study of gover­nance is­sues in Ge­or­gia’s pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on the role and au­thor­ity of the lo­cal board of ed­u­ca­tion.

“There has been a ma­jor con­cern in the past year re­gard­ing the con­duct of cer­tain boards of ed­u­ca­tion in other metro dis­tricts, and we don’t want ev­ery­body to be pe­nal­ized for one par­tic­u­lar one,” What­ley said. “So when­ever this comes up, we would ask you to look very care­fully so that there is preser­va­tion of the power and re­spon­si­bil­ity of the lo­cal board of ed­u­ca­tion in the man­age­ment and con­trol of the district.”

Cap­i­tal out­lay

The board sup­ports fund­ing at the $200 mil­lion level for con­struc­tion projects and $150 mil­lion level for projects that ad­dress ex­cep­tional growth needs in the sys­tem. The board op­poses leg­is­la­tion that would re­quire these funds be spent on non-ed­u­ca­tion re­lated projects, such as street, bridge and util­ity projects that are re­quired when a new fa­cil­ity is built.

“ We still have to build schools be­cause this re­ces­sion is go­ing to end and there are a lot of un­sold houses that will be picked up and when they do, they will most likely have chil­dren that we need to house as they re­ceive an ed­u­ca­tion,” What­ley said.

Vouch­ers

The board does not sup­port vouch­ers or other ini­tia­tives that use pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion money to fund pri­vate schools or home school pro­grams.

Fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tional re­sources and text­books

The board sup­ports a change to the QBE for­mula to cover the ac­tual costs of in­struc­tional ma­te­rial and text­books. Cur­rently, the district re­ceives about $33.26 for each stu­dent in grades 1-3, yet the cost to the district is more than $100 per stu­dent, What­ley said.

“The costs in the for­mula al­lo­cated to the district have not kept up with the ac­tual cost,” What­ley said.

Main­te­nance and op­er­a­tion fund­ing

The board sup­ports an in­crease in fund­ing for main­te­nance and op­er­a­tions. What­ley said the district re­ceived $298 per stu­dent be­fore the cuts in the bud­get, but the av­er­age cost for main­te­nance and op­er­a­tions in the state was $651 per stu­dent in fis­cal year 2007.

“This dif­fer­ence is some­thing that we bear lo­cally in that 43 per­cent, which will change as the state’s per­cent­age de­creases,” What­ley said.

What­ley said it was nec­es­sary to bring these is­sues to leg­is­la­tor’s at­ten­tion since the board would not be do­ing its job if it didn’t ad­vo­cate on the be­half of the stu­dents and staff of NCSS.

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