County rebuffs tax bill request for schools

Wed, 01/07/2009 - 8:41pm
By: John Munford

The Fayette County Commission is turning down a request to issue a new round of tax bills to cover a potential $3.5 million shortfall for the public school system created by a hold placed on the funds by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

School Superintendent John DeCotis had asked for the new bills to be issued to property owners in Fayette County to recover the funding, tied to tax credits that already have been granted this year. The request, in a letter dated Dec. 18, was discussed by the commission during a workshop tonight.

Commissioner Eric Maxwell said he had spoken with state Representative Matt Ramsey and Sen. Ronnie Chance, both of whom live in Fayette, and they told him the legislature would take action during the session to free up the funds so they could be paid to the local governments including the school system.

“I have been told they’re going to address it and that money’s going to be sent back to us,” Maxwell said.

The funds withheld by Perdue are for the tax credit that local governments — including the school board, the county and Fayette’s cities — took off the top of this year’s property tax bills. In return, those funds have always been provided to the local governments by the state.

Perdue recently ordered a hold on the funds, citing the fiscal crisis created by the downturn in the economy.

The governor only has the power to withhold the funds for up to six months, said Commission Chairman Jack Smith. Perdue does not have the power to order the state to keep the funding, which is authorized by the legislature, Smith added.

Maxwell indicated that he had a strong distaste for the idea of issuing new property tax bills at this stage in the game when most property owners have already paid their bill for the year.

Though no formal vote was taken on the matter, commissioners agreed by consensus to turn down the request and write a letter on the issue back to DeCotis.

Maxwell also said the commission should write a letter to its entire legislative delegation to oppose the state keeping the tax credit funds.

Although the matter wasn’t on the formal published agenda distributed in advance of the meeting, it was brought up at the end of the meeting by Maxwell during a portion of the agenda reserved for “board reports.”

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Submitted by Lifes Snot Fare on Thu, 01/08/2009 - 12:07am.

Thank God for Eric Maxwell and shame on John DeCotis. Finally, a measure of common sense has charged into the education funding issues that are rampant in Fayette County. Eric Maxwell took the bull by the horns and brought forth an issue that no one would have blamed him for ignoring. For too long, the gluttonous hog that is our overfed Fayette County Board of Education has been allowed to feed, at will, on the resources of our county, without any thought of restraint. We saw it's snout buried in our wallets in July when the largest millage rate increase for education, ever, was shoved down the helpless taxpayer's throats. Next came the all-out county-wide marketing blitz for the ESPLOST perpetrated on the county's citizens by the entire Fayette County education system and it's minions. There were more mis-truths and misrepresentations spouted during that campaign than any time before, and you better believe King DeCotis is going to be angling for more access to that money, now. Sure, we need to maintain our high standard of education, but there are too many empty chairs and questionable funding practices(ie. the land purchase for Minter Elementary, Rivers Elementary, the empty old East Fayette, etc.) to maintain our current status quo. Now that we have been made the laughing stock of the nation's media, we might see more rational input like that from Eric Maxwell. We never saw this type of avarice and thirst for power from Trig Dalrymple. Oh, how we long for those ethics of old.

Submitted by mysteryman on Thu, 01/08/2009 - 8:24pm.

God bless you Mr Maxwell, hold the line as long as you can we are coming to you.....PEACE

Submitted by wheeljc on Wed, 01/07/2009 - 8:53pm.

Thank you Commissioner Maxwell, and the rest of the Commission for seeing through this ill thought out ploy. This lack of planning, proper timely coordination with elected representatives (including members of the commission and State Representative and Senator) has brought a black eye to this community, and hope that those responsible for failure to plan and coordinate are held to account. If their intent was to draw national attention to their plight -- THEY WON!!

Submitted by Brooks Parent on Wed, 01/07/2009 - 10:13pm.

According to Wingo, local revenue is not down! Just state money.

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