Fayette schools’ tax income under pressure from 3% cap on local property value increases


Article VIII of the Georgia State Constitution states that “the provision of adequate public education of the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia….” This, however, while our Fayette property taxes pay for 51.8% of our school’s cost, while the average Georgia system pays 41.8%.

However, our excellent and quality Fayette County Public schools continue to be at or near the top of public-school systems in Georgia while spending near the average cost per student FTE (full-time equivalent) in Georgia of $13,189 per FTE.

Under Georgia’s Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding scheme, Fayette’s students’ education is funded at 44.8 percent, where the average Georgia student has 52.5% of their education funded under the QBE. It is interesting to note that Georgia has “fully funded” its own QBE formula only a handful of times since 2008.

While part of this disparity is due to a concept of “progressive taxation” where the “rich” pay more and those with less pay less with the “5 mills fair share.” However, at a cost near the state average, with performance far above the state average, Fayette County Public Schools are doing something right.

For years, we taxpayers have paid a higher school tax millage rate than most systems to fund the “Fayette advantage” of senior teachers, smaller neighborhood schools, and smaller than state average class sizes. The results show in our property value and are a pillar of our community.

In this period of rampant inflation, our people cost of salary, benefits, and retirement are outpacing the growth of our tax digest, limited to 3% under a homestead exemption voted in by the taxpayers. Our administration has been clear that class size, class electives, and other support are at risk as costs continue to rise.

One compounding factor is that Fayette’s community continues to age as residents stay in our great community. As taxpayers cross the age of sixty-two, they are given either a partial or total exemption from school taxes. In another discussion on these pages, someone suggested that approximately 20% of Fayette’s population is now sixty-two or older.

When coupled with the homestead exemption above, sources at the school board report that over 30% of the total Fayette County tax digest is exempt from school tax, adding pressure to our school’s revenue.

Public school funding will be a topic in the coming Georgia Legislative session. I look to our state representatives on both sides of the aisle to find a solution that addresses the needs of all Georgia’s students.

The fact that Fayette’s taxpayers pay a premium for our schools to have smaller than state average class size should not be appropriated to pay for Georgia’ obligation to provide a quality basic education.

[Neil Sullivan is a finance/accounting executive and CPA. He has lived in Peachtree City over 20 years with his wife Jennifer, a Fayette County History teacher and son Jackson, a sophomore at Erskine College. He has been active in public school related issues in Fayette County, leading three E-SPLOST initiatives as chairman of Fayette Citizens for Children. He has appeared previously on these pages in letters to the editor.]


  1. The current inflation is at its root a result of excessive spending by all levels of government and the impact of said inflation is suffered by all. Most of us still working or operating a business will not see income raises that offset the inflationary burden and those on fixed incomes feel the pinch most of all…and some now want to snipe that these elders (most of whom are on fixed incomes) can opt out of school taxes after having funded those schools for decades.

    Decisions made by our local BOE when the economy was humming (Trump years) will now have to be paid as those in power now print dollars more efficiently than toilet paper manufacturers…no shortages expected for dollars. Those who serve our community will just have to learn to do more with less, just like the rest of us.

    • Hi ptcalf:

      We need to be mindful that costs for all businesses are going up and the competition for employees is fierce. Teachers can change systems and retain their spot on the pay scale so a teacher with 15 years can go from Fayette to Coweta and not lose any money. The same for pension.

      For example, pensions costs for FCBOE have gone up 13.9 M form (14.0 to 27.9) since 2015 to 2022. Those costs are required so without revenue to eat into the costs, operations have to be reduced. The same for benefits.

      Im not saying there isn’t an imperative to control costs, I see options and will cover that shortly, but the reality is there aren’t many examples of waste in FCBOE,

  2. A few questions come to mind:

    What are the numbers for Fayette County tax revenues for the past several years separated by source? I’ve seen other claims that our aging population is undermining funding – what is the actual trend?

    How does the funding compare to enrollment?

    • Hi Esteban: Going back to 2008 where my database begins, total property tax was $107.123 M in 2022 the total was 111.882 or up 4% or less than 1% compound annual growth rate. (CAGR) Where it gets wild is during the recession in the early 2010’s property tax collection fell as low as $76 M. Student population fell form 22,047 in 2009 v 19.948 in 2022. The big issue on the aging is that as the property tax base becomes more restricted, the BOE can’t get the funds they need without a high millage. Many systems have been able to lower their school tax millage as the value of the property tax base goes up.

  3. As already mentioned the FCBOE is guilty of serious or decision making. A little pressure provides the adrenaline for better decisions. We will take care of our children but not make it easy for sloppy decision making.