Staton legislation would remove Bibb school board’s taxing power

Staff reportsFebruary 19, 2013 

The Bibb County school board would lose its taxing authority under legislation being proposed by a state lawmaker.

Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, is set to announce the filing of local legislation Wednesday that would require the school board to present its final budget to the governing authority of Macon-Bibb County for review and approval.

For decades, the Bibb County Commission approved the school board’s spending plan and tax levy. In 2004, though, Bibb County voters authorized the school board to set its own millage rate, and the board has done so since 2005. It was the last school board in Georgia to achieve that fiscal independence.

Staton has scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. Wednesday in Atlanta. His legislation would reinstate the Macon-Bibb County Commission as the funding authority for Macon-Bibb County. He declined to discuss provisions of the bill Tuesday.

“I make it a practice not to talk about news conferences before the news conference, as it sort of defeats the purpose,” he said in an e-mail.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said Tuesday that he did not want to discuss what he knew about Staton’s bill, but Peake did say he has been fielding calls from constituents who are worried about the school system’s finances.

“There’s just some real concern among our citizens that we are on a slippery slope to disaster, and it’s time we do something,” Peake said.

In a preliminary budget session recently, school officials said they will need to keep dipping into their financial reserves as operation costs increase and local and state tax dollars continue to decline.

Unless the district takes a different course, such as consolidating schools, the district’s reserves could go from nearly $4.7 million in fiscal 2014 to nearly $7.6 million in the red the year after, based on preliminary projections that school officials shared in January.

The district is supposed to maintain a minimum fund balance of 8 percent of its projected fiscal 2014 budget expenditures of $185 million, or $14.8 million, according to school system documents.

More immediately, the school district may have to adjust its fiscal 2013 budget because of an anticipated increase in legal fees and payments toward the lease for the Macon Promise Center that the school district is set to start paying in April.

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