BOE approves use of dogs for upcoming year

By Bob Paslay

The Clayton County School Board Monday night approved the use of dogs to detect any contraband in the middle and high school years for the coming year. The action follows a series of violent actions and disturbances in the past school year and a successful pilot program to use contraband-seeking dogs.

School Superintendent Barbara Pulliam said there were no incidents of the dogs getting out of hand or disturbing either school personnel or students during the pilot program.

She called the dogs "friendly, gentle dogs" which are spaniels.

The board agreed to pay Interquest Detection Canines of Georgia $37,100 for the random visits to all the high schools and middle schools in the district during the coming school year which begins Aug. 8.

The plan calls for five inspections during the school year at all nine high schools and three at all 13 middle schools. It also calls for one student assembly at each of the schools. A report on what is found will be provided to school officials after the inspections and one yearly summary report.

Assistant Superintendent Luvenia Jackson said after the pilot program at Mt. Zion, Lovejoy and Forest Park high schools near the end of the last school year that "all indications we have gotten from everyone is that it is effective."

The "administrators at the schools felt it was a big help," Jackson said.

During the pilot program two visits each were made to the three high schools and 10 alerts were found. Those were four for illicit drugs, none for alcohol or gunpowder, one for medication, two for residual odors, three for unknown scents. The dogs found no evidence of tobacco usage or weapons during the visits.

However, during the school year some weapons were found in the schools and the school officials took action against those found with the weapons.

A series of incidents that came fairly close together caused volunteer adults to patrol some schools to allay fears and provide reassurance for parents.

School officials vowed to step up security to stop any violence, which law enforcement officials said are spawned by the growing gang problem in the schools. An additional $200,000 was added to the current school budget before its final approval last month for security measures.

Millage set

The school board also approved leaving the millage rate at the current 18.916 mills. This is a reassessment year and in order to leave the millage the same and not roll it back officials had a series of public hearings.

While the millage remained the same, area taxpayers who saw their property values go up will pay more when they get those tax bills this fall. How much of an increase they will see depends on how much their property went up in value.

Across the county, the value of all property increased a total of $390 million. This means the total valuation of property went from $6.679 billion to $7.079 billion. Reassessments accounted for $101.8 million of the increase while growth in the county jumped $343.9 million. Exemptions amounted to a reduction of $55 million.

A person will a house valued at $100,000 would pay $567.48 in school taxes. One with a $150,000 home would pay $945.80 and a $200,000 house would pay $1,324.12 in school taxes.

Residential property and mobile homes account for 37.52 percent of all the value of property in the county. Commercial and industrial account for 41.72 percent, motor vehicles 8.99 percent, utilities 11.48 percent and other for .32 of a percent.

The budget that went into effect on July 1 is made up of property taxes and a variety of other revenue sources. It is $456.1 million compared to $427 million last fiscal year.