Schools can afford 1 mill for taxpayers

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In a recent letter to the editor, Neil Sullivan expressed concern about lowering Fayette County’s school millage rate by one mill, saying that the lost revenue would be detrimental to our student population.

Please consider that the overall Fayette County tax digest will increase in 2016 between 7 and 8 percent. With the increase in property tax revenues, a small millage reduction up to one mill will still give the school system an additional half million dollars above the revenues from 2015.

Reducing the millage rate will help ease the increase that all Fayette County property owners will pay in November. The BOE has not yet approved the new millage nor the new budget.

The superintendent has recommended 29 new teaching positions and 8.5 para-professional positions for School Year 2016-17 to help reduce class sizes.

Plus, the school system must now pay for 25 para-professionals for special needs students previously paid by Washington.

Fayette locally funds over 100 classroom and support positions beyond state allocations. On top of this, the school system faces increased healthcare and retirement benefit costs that are no longer funded by the state.

Even with these increased personnel costs, the Fayette BOE is still maintaining its 10 percent budget reserve fund. With all of these budget projections, the BOE can afford a small millage reduction in school taxes because of the increased tax base.

Over the past school year, Fayette County has added new technology to most classrooms. New student computers give teachers many new options to provide learning opportunities for their classes. Most teachers can now monitor the computer work being done by individual students. The school system is expanding its Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) offerings.

But, we are cautious about new programs. Educational fads, many of them quite expensive, are always being chased by some people. Do they all work? Not so much.

An academically focused education has historically provided a great foundation for students seeking college, vocational, technical, military, or other career choices. A recent article in a local newspaper places four of our five high schools in the top ten percent of high schools in the nation academically. One of our main goals is to bring that fifth high school up to that level.

Please consider your voting choices carefully as this election nears. Do you favor educational change based on sound research or do you favor change based on the latest fad? Do you favor a tax and spend education system or would you prefer a fiscally sound approach to funding education in Fayette County?

Marion Key, Chair
Fayette County Board of Education
Fayetteville, Ga.