State Rep. dis­cusses leg­is­la­tion with school board

The Covington News - - LOCAL - MARTIN RAND III mrand@rock­dale­news.com

Ge­or­gia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dave Bel­ton, R-Buck­head, made an ap­pear­ance at the New­ton County School Board meet­ing Tues­day night to dis­cuss a slew of leg­is­la­tion that would af­fect the New­ton County School Sys­tem.

A ma­jor bill on the minds of school board mem­bers was the state’s trans­porta­tion fund­ing bill, HB 170, which was passed by the House Thurs­day and is still be­ing de­lib­er­ated on in the Ge­or­gia Se­nate.

The pro­posed bill would af­fect how the school board can spend its fu­ture funds raised from ed­u­ca­tion lo­cal op­tion sales tax, says Bel­ton, who sits on the House’s ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee.

“My un­der­stand­ing is, the next ELOST, the money you raise from taxes from gas taxes will have to be put on trans­porta- tion,” he told the board. “They ex­panded the word trans­porta­tion to in­clude buses and bus driv­ers.”

Also, as it’s cur­rently writ­ten the bill raises the gas tax by 10 cents a gal­lon, which is likely to be changed by the Se­nate be­cause it’s a huge tax in­crease, said Bel­ton.

“I was never for (this bill),” Bel­ton told the board. “In my opin­ion, it was go­ing to steal from the lo­cal and give to the state and pre­tend like we weren’t rais­ing taxes. Well we were. I never liked it.”

In 2012, Ge­or­gia cit­i­zens didn’t ap­prove a trans­porta­tion SPLOST, which would have raised taxes.

Bel­ton re­cused him­self from the vote on this bill, which passed 123-46 in the House, be­cause he’s an em­ployee of Delta Air­lines. HB 170 also puts an end to tax breaks placed on jet fuel that air­lines have been re­ceiv­ing since the mid-2000s.

In an e-mail state­ment, NCSS Su­per­in­ten­dent Sa­man­tha Fuhrey says that “ev- ery penny” of tax money raised should go to the gen­eral fund. In not do­ing so, the lack of funds could neg­a­tively af­fect the school dis­trict’s abil­ity to fi­nance projects by more than $8.5 mil­lion over the life of an ELOST.

Gover­nor Nathan Deal is the ma­jor fac­tor in the trans­porta­tion bill mov­ing along.

“The rea­son why we’re do­ing this is be­cause the gover­nor re­ally wants a bil­lion dol­lars a year for trans­porta­tion,” said Bel­ton. Ed­u­ca­tion sav­ings ac­count This bill drew some ire from the school board as well.

The ed­u­ca­tion sav­ings ac­count, HB 243, would al­low cer­tain qual­i­fied kids to at­tend pri­vate school or pay for home school­ing by us­ing state money, which would go to a public school.

“I’m not in fa­vor of this bill,” said Bel­ton. “It’s prob­a­bly worse, to me, than a uni­ver­sal voucher bill.”

He says he doesn’t sup­port the bill be­cause there’s very lit­tle ac­count­abil­ity in the bill as it’s cur­rently writ­ten.

“There’s no ac­count­abil­ity on how the money will be spent,” he said. “You can the­o­ret­i­cally, in my opin­ion, go to a dol­phin ex­cur­sion in Can­cun, (Mex­ico) and say this is an ed­u­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The pas­sage of this bill into law could re­sult in $180 mil­lion dol­lars be­ing taken from state ed­u­ca­tion funds, says Bel­ton.

Fuhrey is also not on board with this plan be­cause, “it fur­ther erodes public school fund­ing.”

The bill is still in the House and could be voted on to­day. Get a high school di­ploma The Se­nate passed a bill that would al­low stu­dents in tech­ni­cal col­lege to ob­tain a high school di­ploma if they com­plete cer­tain core re­quire­ments while dual en­rolled in school.

SB 2 was fa­vor­ably re­ceived by the ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee in the House Mar. 3.

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