JONESBORO — Eight of the nine Clayton County Board of Education members are opposed to proposed legislation that would immediately cut off one of its most significant local revenue streams.
The school board voted Monday to have Superintendent Luvenia Jackson draft a “letter of concern” about House Bill 399. Board member Michael King abstained, saying “additional information would help.”
The bill was authored by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) and it would prohibit local governments from collecting ad valorem taxes from businesses leasing space at airports run by another government.
“House Bill 399 will have a significant impact on Clayton County Public Schools financially,” said Chairman Pam Adamson. She said the effects could come as soon as the bill becomes law.
Ken Thompson is the chief financial officer for Clayton County Public Schools. He said the county stands to lose millions in revenue from collections at concessions in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
“The tax commissioner said that would be a loss of up to $14 million to the county and the schools’ portion of the ad valorem taxes is about 60 percent,” Thompson said. “The loss to the school system would be between $8 million and $9 million a year.”
The board’s general funds budget has been stretched to around $335 million annually in recent years.
Thompson said a cut as large as $9 million (nearly 3 percent of the budget) is potentially harmful to the health of the system; it could pay a year’s worth in salaries and benefits for 130 teachers.
The system last imposed unpaid furlough days during the 2011-12 school year to account for lost revenues. But he said furloughs are not a consideration for this year.
“At this point, personnel would be the last consideration,” said Thompson.
There are no plans to pursue increasing the millage rate, which maxed out at 20 mils in 2010. But officials will have to meet with the school board in the coming weeks to discuss ways to fill the gaps in funding should the bill become law.
Thompson said the system would likely begin to fill the gaps by cutting supply and travel budgets.
House Bill 399 poses the second budget challenge in as many weeks for the school board, which voted unanimously Feb. 26 opposing the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Officials said then that the sequester would cost the system $855,000 in annual cuts in federally-funded programs.
“We’re still looking at where we may or may not be able to absorb that cut,” said Thompson. “It is significant. We know in the long run we have to make those cuts. We just haven’t identified where those cuts will be.”
Staff writer Curt Yeomans contributed to this article.