Bibb BOE approves $25M loan

The Bibb County school board Thursday approved taking out a $25 million loan to pay for school operations and teachers from May through September.

The loan, which is a tax anticipation note or TAN, is needed because the school system hasn’t collected 28 percent of local property taxes this fiscal year, which ends June 30. So far, $56 million of the anticipated $77 million in local taxes has been collected due to county property revaluation appeals.

“We’ve had such a convoluted revenue year,” school board president Gary Bechtel said, referring to the uncertain state and local tax funding sources, which has required the board to take out the TAN. “It’s become a very difficult process.”

Until tax collections are received, the school system will use $3 million from the loan to make payroll in May, $6 million in June, $2 million in July and $10 million in September. The loan, of which officials plan to spend just $21 million, will be repaid with interest by Dec. 31.

In September, the school system took out a TAN with a 1.23 percent interest rate that was repaid in full within 30 days. A TAN is a short-term debt obligation issued by a government entity in anticipation of future tax collections.

In other business Thursday, the school board also approved the school calendar for 2011-12.

The system received input from 846 parents, educators and students with more than 300 favoring Aug. 8 as the start date. Under the approved plan, there are four teacher pre-planning days. A week off for Thanksgiving was included, and the last day of school is set for May 24, 2012.

Board members also voted to revise the policy on charter schools since it hadn’t been updated since 2004. The state board since that time had adopted changes. Bechtel said Bibb’s policy now mirrors state rules.

A charter status allows a community, parents and teachers to have a say in the curriculum focus and how the schools operate.

Bibb received two letters of intent to file charter school petitions sent from an Atlanta law firm earlier this year. The letters stated the groups hoped to open two elementary schools in Bibb County in fall 2012.

In Bibb, the petition cycle requires that a charter petitioner send the school board an intent letter six months prior to sending in a petition. Formal proposals must be submitted to the board soon so board members can decide whether they will be approved by July. Then the petitions must be sent to the state by Aug. 1.

Bechtel said he is open to charter schools in Macon.

“The charter school movement and a lot of the players are getting better at what they do,” he said. “I personally would (support) them.”

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.