The new school year is about to begin, and with it will come a new tax year. With the tax rate likely to be unchanged at 20 mills again this year, that rate set by the Fayette County Board of Education is among the highest in the state.
While there are many ways to compare school systems, one of those ways is in the money received and, perhaps more importantly, the amount of taxes levied on a community.
The Fayette County School System for the past several years has levied a millage rate of 20 mills and currently has a $184 million budget. Fayette employees 2,650 full-time equivalents and had a 2014-2015 school enrollment of 20,130 students.
Fayette operates 24 schools, including 14 elementary schools, five middle schools and five high schools.
The Forsyth County School System, arguably the top school system in Georgia, has a millage rate of 16.3 mills. Forsyth has a $309 million budget and 4,300 full-time employees. The school system serves 42,600 students and operates 20 elementary schools, nine middle schools and six high schools.
Fayette and Forsyth consistently rank as the top two counties in the state in terms of median household income and home prices.
A check with the Georgia Department of Revenue for millage rates established by boards of education in 2014 shows:
• Cherokee County at 19.45 mills
• Cobb County at 18.9 mills
• Coweta County at 18.59 mills
• Fulton County at 18.5 mills
• Gwinnett County at 19.8 mills
• Columbia County at 18.59 mills
• Henry County at 20 mills
• Athens-Clarke County at 20 mills
• Douglas County at 19.85 mills
While Georgia has 159 counties, there are more than 180 school districts since some cities operate their own district.
As for countywide districts, there are eight that operate at 20 mills or above. Those include Fayette, Athens-Clarke, Henry, Newton, Stephens, DeKalb (23.98 mills), Muscogee (23.37 mills) and Rockdale (25.39 mills).
State law imposes a cap of 20 mills on a board of education. School districts, through a public referendum, can exceed the 20-mill maximum. Locally, that idea was surfaced by former Superintendent Jeff Bearden during his stay in Fayette County.
It was in the spring that Fayette County board member Barry Marchman proposed that the board consider lowering the millage rate. Voicing their dissent on that issue were board members Dan Colwell, Diane Basham and Leonard Presburg. Marchman’s proposal was dead on arrival.