Bartow's GOP opposes a measure approved by the county school board in a plan to save the system more than $3 million amid dwindling state and local funding.
In a Monday called meeting, the school board voted to increase the millage rate from 17.90 mills to 19.40 mills, which Superintendent John Harper said will equate to an additional $60 a year on a $100,000 home.
In a press release, Bartow County Republican Party Chairman Louis DeBroux, on behalf of the group's executive committee, encourages local citizens and taxpayers to speak out against the tax hike at the Bartow County Board of Eduction meeting set for Monday at 6 p.m.
Leaders of the party are calling on the board to rescind the decision to raise property taxes; release a detailed, itemized budget reflecting all of the school system's expenditures; and work with taxpayers to identify additional budget cuts and correct any inefficiencies.
Here's DeBroux's full release:
For nearly half a decade, the citizens of Bartow County have, along with their fellow Americans, suffered from a recession, followed by extended period of anemic growth, which seems to have no end. And while the federal government has the luxury of printing money, the states, counties and individual citizens do not have that option. They must make responsible decisions to get their budgets to align with their income, decisions which are often painful. Many of us have forgone new cars, or family vacations, or nights out to dinner. We have altered our driving habits, reduced our costs at every possible turn, and just simply tried to get by with less. It has been difficult, but necessary, to be more diligent in living within our means.
This week, the Bartow County School Board voted unanimously to raise taxes on the citizens of Bartow County by 1.5 mils, or the equivalent of $90 per year on a $150,000 home. During the school board meeting, a long list of reasons was given for the increase, citing the poor economy (which has led to less revenue), and state legislators not stepping up to the plateto help the K-12 education system.
Yet one cant help but wonder if there is an alternative to raising taxes on citizens already struggling to get by. To some, $90 may not seem like much, but with the cost of gas having doubled since Obama took office, the cost of food having gone up considerably, and with unemployment in Bartow at 9.9%, another hundred dollars (equal to about two tanks of gas) can be a painful blow. If there is an alternative to burdening our citizens who are already struggling, we should seek it diligently. This tax increase comes on top of recent passage of SPLOST and ELOST tax increase bills. Again, these seem like small amounts taken piecemeal, but when added up it is a heavy burden. Higher taxes mean less money in each citizens pocket; less money to pay the power bill, or buy food, or put gas in the car to go to work.
As to the issue of needing more money, Georgia spends about 40% of its state budget on K-12 education (60% when factoring in post-high school education spending), or more than the combined expenditures on our legislature and courts, health departments, state employee retirement funding, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, veterans services, law enforcement and prisons, and economic development combined. Can we truly say that education is underfunded when we spend over $9,000 per child per year on education? Have those entrusted with the annual taxpayer dollars, which represent many months of hard work, truly streamlined operations and expenses as much as possible?
This year, the Department of Education will actually receive an increase of $107,270,492 (about 1%) over last years budget. The education budget, even in this down economy, has been closely protected from the significant cuts other departments have had to bear. Each year since the economic collapse, education has never decreased by more than 4%, and most cuts were in the 2-3% range. By comparison, other state agencies were dealt far more significant blows. Comparing the 2012 budget to the 2009 budget (the last full budget before the economic collapse), education has been cut a total of 15%, whereas the budgets for the Secretary of State, Drivers Services, and the Department of Revenue were each cut by 52%, the Department of Natural Resources was cut by 33%, and the funding for economic development was cut 54%. While certainly a 15% decrease over that time has forced a budgetary reprioritization, it is no more than many taxpayers have had to deal with in their own homes. Likewise, the state does not have unlimited funds (and it has NO funds other than those taxes confiscated from the taxpayers) and should not ask more of the taxpayers than it asks of itself.
We call on the school board to release a detailed, itemized budget which reflects all expenditures, which would allow our taxpayers the opportunity to work together to find places to cut the budget that may have been missed, or efficiencies to be found. It is worth a try if it means the difference between raising taxes yet again, and allowing the struggling taxpayers to keep more of the money they earned and which is rightfully theirs.
As Republicans, we believe in personal responsibility, in honest and frugal management of the taxpayer dollar, and in maximum freedom for each of us as individuals. With each dollar taken from us by government, we become less and less able to control our own destinies, because we become slaves to a government master. Weve seen the damage done by a government that always sees tax increases as the answer to our problems. The result has been devastating. Therefore we, the leadership and members of the Bartow County Republican Party, do exhort our fellow Republican school board members to rescind the decision to place an additional tax burden on the citizens of Bartow County, and instead enlist each of us in the effort to reduce the need for additional taxation.
We also encourage the citizens and taxpayers of Bartow County to reach out to the school board and let your voices be heard, and to be an active part of the political process which directly affects each and every one of us. Let us work in partnership with these public servants to find a better path to achieve the important responsibility of educating our children, but do so in a way that does not further burden those already struggling.
The next school board meeting will be held at 6PM on Monday, March 19th. The meeting will be in the Board Room at Central Office, 65 Gilreath Road, Cartersville, phone number 770-606-5800. If a citizen would like to address the board, they should arrive around 30 minutes early to fill out the public participation form.