Schools’ funding ‘emergency,’ declining enrollments were evident for years

Tue, 10/28/2008 - 3:46pm
By: Letters to the ...

My fellow taxpayers, please allow me to tell you what an honor it has been to receive your emails of support, to receive your phone calls and to meet so many wonderful people who share a common vision of accountability in education.

Running as a write-in candidate for Post 1 of the Fayette County Board of Education has been an exciting time for Fayette County and for me personally.

Speaking of accountability, after reading the article, “BoE mulls school cost cuts” by Ben Nelms (The Citizen 10-22-08), dozens of citizens have asked me why the Fayette County Board of Education was not having these budget discussions back in the spring of 2008.

The facts indicate that the same budget woes that are headline newsworthy this fall were evident back in April. There is nothing happening now that was not already evidenced six or more months ago.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if parents and other taxpayers had been allowed to discuss these important budgeting considerations back in April, May or June, when the FCBoE knew that we didn’t have the student population or the resources to support opening another school?

Looking back even further, at the first phase of the 2004 bonds, our school system already had information that indicated growth in Fayette County was in decline. This was made clear in the bond packet that board members received.

The FCBoE talks about how they use residential building permits to justify the need for new schools. In looking at the data provided to the FCBoE in the bond packet, however, an extreme decline in residential growth from the years 1999 to 2003 is evident: Residential building permits dropped from 619 units in 1999, to a low of 285 units in the year 2003. That is a 53 percent decline.

This clearly outlines the downward trend of growth in Fayette County, and the facts support that continued new-school construction was not called for.

Yet, the FCBoE built Bennett’s Mill Middle School (BMMS), struggled to find a student population to fill the school, and today, the school enrollment is at 47 percent capacity.

Having BMMS under capacity means that school does not qualify for full state funding, and the school system continues to lose money on that school.

The FCBoE members were working on a personal agenda that was in the best interest of a few developers, but was not in the best interest of Fayette County taxpayers, or, more importantly, Fayette County students.

I have yet to hear my opponent, Janet Smola, sufficiently explain the poor allocation of bond funds and the FCBoE decision to ignore the facts about stalled growth in Fayette County.

I sit back in awe when I read the co-chair of the Fayette Citizens for Children (a pro-ESPLOST group) bragging about using ESPLOST funds to pay down our bond debt.

The FCBoE promised the senior citizens of Fayette County that they would not have to pay for the bonds; now the FCBoE is reneging on that promise. The very senior citizens who were going to be protected are now a vulnerable group when it comes to ESPLOST.

Fayette Citizens for Children, the group putting out all the “Yes, ESPLOST” signs, are throwing our senior citizens under the school bus. Why is this group willing to completely overlook significant planning errors, budgeting oversights and poorly allocated bond funds, and then brag about the financial genius of the current school board?

I would like to serve as your advocate. We need a school board that is willing to manage our hard-earned tax dollars wisely. We need a school board that is going to look out for every child in every zip code in Fayette County and not show favoritism toward a few geographical pockets.

We need representation who will take the generous amounts of money taxpayers have given them and ensure that every child receives the highest quality education possible.

Please write in my name, Nicole File, for Post 1 of the Fayette County Board of Education.

Nicole File

Write-In Candidate Post 1

Fayette County Board of Education

Peachtree City, Ga.

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