School system to meet with legislators

School system officials are preparing to meet with the Fayette County delegation in the General Assembly to make their feelings known on a half dozen issues of concern. The planned meeting was announced by Superintendent John DeCotis at Monday’s school board meeting.

Topics for discussion with legislators at the Feb. 11 meeting include special interest tax breaks, unfunded mandates, House Bill (HB) 251 public school choice, the local 5 mill tax share, the Charter School Commission and a fully funded QBE (Quality Basic Education) formula.

“These are the things we’re concerned about,” DeCotis said, adding that it is better to keep the list of concerns reasonably short.

Concerning special interest tax breaks, DeCotis said those should be eliminated, as they create a tax burden on employees and homeowners.

DeCotis also said legislatively-imposed unfunded mandates create a burden for school districts, noting that one of the biggest expenses for a school system are the compliance costs from both state and federal mandates. The school district will ask that legislators not impose requirements without funding attached.

HB 251 passed last year allows for students to transfer to another school within a school system if space exists. DeCotis said the law should not be modified to allow for space to be determined by an entity other than the local school district. DeCotis said the school system would not want to see modifications that would allow students from other districts.

The “5 Mill Share” in the QBE formula refers to the portion of the direct and indirect instructional costs that the state expects local systems to pay with locally raised funds. Currently, the state requires local systems to pay an amount equal to five mills of property tax generated within their taxing authority.

DeCotis said the school system will ask legislators to maintain the current five mill cap even in the face of a recessionary economy.

As for the state Charter School Commission, DeCotis said the group will ask legislators to suspend the local funding that goes to charter schools. Local taxpayer dollars should not be used for this option without local board approval, DeCotis said in his talking points.

And with a fully funded QBE formula, DeCotis said the system believes those educational costs should either be fully funded or should allow flexibility in how those funds are spent.

DeCotis reminded board members that Gov. Sonny Perdue’s proposed budget will be followed by the House and Senate versions and that it could be several months before those outcomes are known.

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