Recently, a few candidates for office in the Peachtree City municipal elections have argued for “more affordable” housing options to prevent harm to excellent and quality public schools. They argue that as Peachtree City ages, we have more empty nests and less school children.
While it is important to remember that Peachtree City is a part of the Fayette County Public School System, which student population does reflect slightly over 2,400 less students across the county from 2011 to the most recent census reports. In 2021 in the same period, schools located within Peachtree City and the Starr’s Mill campus had approximately 40 ADDITIONAL students.
However, on a net capacity basis, the system is down only .4%, from 80.3% full to 79.9%. It’s important to note, that our School Board, led by Dr. Barry Marchman, decreased capacity by closing Brooks, Tyrone, Fayette Intermediate, and Fayette Middle. Further, during this period, capacity was added to Peachtree City Elementary, Kedron Elementary, and McIntosh. In addition, a larger replacement for Booth Middle is underway. Peachtree City has plenty of students and capacity.
While I believe all those concerned about our schools have good intentions, it is hard to ignore the potential consequences of their proposals.
Many residents have purchased their houses to be in a specific school zone or feeder pattern. A change to our zoning and density rules may create schools exceeding 90% capacity which may raise class sizes or worse create a need to redistrict some students to other schools.
In a redistricting, the process is outside of our control and there is no consideration for who was there first. Some may argue that this inconvenient fact should be dealt with if it happens. But that may be too late for some.
Several decisions over the years have converted property from commercial (stores) or industrial (businesses) to additional housing. While housing brings residents to our city and students to our schools, it takes away property that would pay school tax without adding students. Some residential property may leave the school tax roll for a time as the owners turn 65; however, commercial and industrial property does not get a school tax exemption and generates school tax annually.
Last, while “affordable housing” exists under many models, we saw recently where a development in Fayetteville that the developer claimed affordable rents did not cover the costs. The developer asked the city of Fayetteville and the Fayette County Schools for a twenty-year tax abatement. In this case, the development could provide students without any additional local money.
It is important that we explore any cure proposed to our “aging city” to ensure that the facts are correct and the solution does not harm our city, or our schools.
There have been some exciting ideas that have come forth in this election. With the data above, it appears that concern for our PTC student population is overblown. Peachtree City has been great for a long time, and I look forward to electing the next set of leaders to keep our city shining as an example to others.
Peachtree City, Ga.