Bartow schools' tax proposal questioned
by Mark Andrews
Mar 20, 2012 | 3604 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An artists’ rendering of the new Adairsville Middle School site. The approximate 175,182-square foot school will house 58 classrooms including lab and exceptional education rooms as well as amenities for baseball, softball, football and track. 
SPECIAL/Chapman Griffin Lanier Sussonbach Architects
An artists’ rendering of the new Adairsville Middle School site. The approximate 175,182-square foot school will house 58 classrooms including lab and exceptional education rooms as well as amenities for baseball, softball, football and track. SPECIAL/Chapman Griffin Lanier Sussonbach Architects
One Adairsville resident and the chairman of the Bartow County Republican Party spoke during Monday's Bartow County Board of Education meeting, questioning the board's decision to include an increase to the millage rate in its budget reduction plan.

"We have record unemployment, we also have many citizens who are underemployed, and at a time in which the citizens are struggling to make ends meet you hit them with another tax increase," said Adairsville resident Ronnie Farr.

Last week the board approved its budget reduction plan for the 2012-2013 year, which included raising the millage rate and cutting jobs. The millage rate increase, which requires three meetings for approval, is proposed to increase by 1.5 mills, which would mean an increase of about $60 a year in property taxes for a $100,000 home.

"... You get the majority of the money from the property tax collected from the county digest now, education gets over 50 percent of the state budget through state income tax and other tax collected, and also don't forget about federal money collected through federal income tax," Farr said. "My question is, when is enough enough?"

Bartow County Republican Party Chairman Louis DeBroux, who issued a press release last week calling on community members to question the board about the tax increase at Monday's business session, asked if there was a detailed budget on display for the county school system.

"It is our position that with the economy ... the people of this state and the county have already been burned not only by taxes and additional taxes placed on us by the federal government, but by high unemployment which makes it more of a burden for this additional tax to be paid," DeBroux said.

Harper said while the current budget has yet to be voted upon, the 2011-2012 budget is available for review at the central office.

"There will be hearings over the millage [rate], we will develop the budget from the recommendations that I've given the board, [Chief Financial Advisor Todd Hooper] and I will do that, and then we'll vote on the budget hopefully by the end of May," Harper said, adding the law requires the system vote on the budget by the end of June.

He said the three meetings for the proposed millage rate increase will be held and advertised in accordance with law.

"We really haven't had any meetings over the millage rate over the recommendation I have made to the board and that they've supported at this point in time," Harper said. "Before the budget is passed, by law they're required to have some hearings over the millage."

In other school news, Bartow County is looking to move about 150 students from Euharlee Elementary School to Taylorsville Elementary School.

"One of the concerns we're having currently at Taylorsville is the districting and the people not shifting as it was intended to do, we need to move some students to Taylorsville Elementary School because of the number of teachers in particular we have in the upper grades," Superintendent John Harper said during the board's Monday, March 12, work session.

"... What we'd like to do is shift some population from Euharlee, purposefully to make that [school] a smaller school for us, a better family atmosphere, and also to help Taylorsville."

Harper said there are situations in which Euharlee students can remain at their school of origin. For example, if there are multiple children from a family attending the school or if a student is in fourth grade approaching the fifth grade.

"Certainly over the next few years we need to make some shifts in that population to help both schools operate better academically," Harper said.

Harper added he will meet with the schools and communities individually to further discuss redistricting.

Follow The Daily Tribune News for updates on the issue.

The board approved the second reading of revisions to a board policy dealing with leaves and absences by employees.

"Essentially the concern we've had is people have been taking a year's worth absence under the Family Medical Leave and then resigning, and were essentially with the policy change trying to put more responsibility for catastrophic illness as its determined with the American Medical Association," Harper said during the Monday, March 12, work session.

The board approved the purchase of $162,674 in supplemental reading kits for kindergartners. The kits are paid for through Title I funds.

The board also approved the purchase of $76,126 in playground equipment for the new Cloverleaf Elementary for early-childhood and upper-childhood playgrounds at the school.

"It's important with playground equipment ... that certified individuals put those in because of the liability and insurance involved there," Harper said during the work session.

The new school, set to open in August, also will feature a new technology model.

"Essentially, the direction in which we're moving for our facilities is total wireless," Harper said during the work session.

Among the items approved for the school include wireless access points and controller for the points as well as interactive projectors.

"One of the things we've worked hard with in technology and researching what we need to put in our schools is to put data and equipment in there that we know is not necessarily top-of-the-line, but is the latest technology," Harper said during the work session.

Following the technology model is the new Adairsville Middle School, which saw its groundbreaking on Thursday, March 15. The board approved the purchase of data, voice cabling and access points for the school.

The bid amount is at $73,000, but Harper said, "... With using E-Rate funds, we believe [the amount] will be diminished by about 80 percent by the time we finish that purchase ... so it looks like the total price is around $14,000."

The schools are being constructed through the $70 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds approved by voters in July 2010.

The board voted unanimously to approve the Jan. 9 called meeting, Feb. 6 public hearing, Feb. 6 called meeting, Feb. 6 work session and Feb. 13 business meeting. However, board member Wanda Cagle Grey voted against the approval of the Feb. 27 board retreat minutes, saying she felt the meeting was not properly called to order and adjourned and that she disapproved of how the meeting was conducted in terms of board member communication.

"I felt like I was an outsider," Grey said.

The board will hold their next work session on April 9 at 6 p.m. in the central office boardroom.