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Lack of attendance stalls budget

By Trina Trice

The Clayton County Board of Education will try again to have a meeting to approve the system's $327.3 million budget Thursday.

The board failed to meet quorum Tuesday at a meeting that began at 6 p.m. Board members Carol Kellam, Barbara Wells, LaToya Walker, and Chairwoman Nedra Ware attended the meeting. Absent were members Ericka Davis, Linda Crummy, Dr. Bob Livingston, and Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens.

The meeting has been rescheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Lee Davis, chief financial officer for Clayton County schools, proposed the 2004 budget at a called meeting last week.

In the budget is an allotment for 54 new positions which include: $3.4 million for 88 teachers; $119,524 for two elementary assistant principals; $63,412 for one high school/vocational assistant principal; $63,412 for a coordinator of nursing; and $48,700 for two elementary school nurses.

More than $1.8 million has been allotted toward the hiring of 43 teachers to implement class-size reduction for grades kindergarten through third. More than $300,000 for paraprofessionals, who assistant teachers, are also a part of the class-size reduction effort.

The passage of Gov. Sonny Perdue's Education Reform Bill, also known as S.T.A.R.S., "Students + Teachers + Accountability + Respect = Success," will delay mandates set by former Gov. Roy Barnes with his education reform bill, for school system's to implement across-the-board class-size reductions.

Extending implementation of the requirement will purportedly save Georgia taxpayers steep property tax hikes.

The state's Office of Planning and Budget had recently projected that Georgia's school districts would require $100-140 million in additional funding to implement the class-size reductions set by Barnes' legislation.

The new budget also includes pay increases for teachers totaling $2.4 million.

Clayton County residents will have to wait a few more months, though, before knowing how much their taxes will go up.

As for the county's school system, Davis recommended the board approve a 1-mill increase from 17.916 to 18.916.

For a 1-mill increase without a millage rollback, Davis suggested the following possible effects to taxpayers:

A taxpayer who owns a home with a fair market value of $100,000 that also has an assessed value of $40,000, $10,000 homestead exemption, and a taxable value of $30,000 could expect a $30 increase ? $537 to $567.

A taxpayer who owns a home with a fair market value of $150,000 that also has an assessed value of $60,000, $10,000 homestead exemption, and a taxable value of $50,000 could expect a $50 increase ? $896 to $946.

A taxpayer who owns a home with a fair market value of $200,000 that also has an assessed value of $80,000, $10,000 homestead exemption, and a taxable value of $70,000 could expect a $70 increase ? $1,254 to $1,324.

According to a millage rate history for the school system, the millage rate since 1975 rose more than three mills from 15.10 to 18.34 in 1999. The rate dropped back down to its current number 17.916 in 2000.

Davis asserts that the Clayton County school system has one of the lowest millage rates of metro Atlanta school systems.

DeKalb County Schools, which is facing job layoffs and serious budget cuts, currently has a 21.980 millage rate.

Henry County Schools has a 20.710 millage rate; Fayette County Schools have a 21.694 millage rate.