The Fayette Citizen-News Page
Wednesday, February 16, 2000
Supt.: Gov.'s education reform plan may cut Fayette funding


Proposals for changes in the state's Quality Basic Education formulas for funding, which seem to change daily, have Fayette County school officials on edge.

“We're having a hard time finding out how this will affect us,” John DeCotis, Fayette County school superintendent, told the board Monday night.

At this point, DeCotis said Fayette County will be required to increase its fair share contribution — state funds that prosperous counties forego in favor of poorer counties — from $11.9 million in fiscal year 2000 to $13.4 million in fiscal year 2001, resulting in a net loss of $1.5 million, if Gov. Roy Barnes' education proposals become law.

And the governor is sticking by his proposals, said DeCotis. “Jim Stephens and I, along with [state] representatives Lynn Westmoreland and Kathy Cox, met with Tom Wagner, deputy director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget on Friday, Feb. 4, to discuss the changes in the formula. We were informed that there was little likelihood that any substantial changes to the proposals would be forthcoming,” DeCotis said.

Growth in the value of taxable property in Fayette would cause an increase in Fayette's fair share payments regardless of the governor's proposals, according to DeCotis.

“In 1997, the [tax] digest grew by 9 percent; in 1998, it grew by 16.4 percent and by 9.3 percent in 1999. These growth factors play an important role in computation of the local fair share and the equalization grants, and these two components of the state allotments will impact heavily on the amount of state funds to be allocated to our system in fiscal year 2001,” DeCotis said.

Growth in the tax digest will cost the Fayette County school system $826,887 whether the governor's education reform package passes in the Senate or not, according to DeCotis. However, the most recent news is that implementation will take place over four years, softening the financial blow to Fayette County and the other counties listed among the state's most prosperous.

On the bright side, DeCotis said, “We're in a little better shape than we anticipated.” While the system will still have to give up more money to the state, the governor will also be giving back money for some specific purposes. Another plus is the school system's already low teacher-student ratio.

Pam Riddle, on staff in the district office, told the board that she and the director of human resources are trying to formulate projections at a 20:1 teacher-student ratio. “We're on hold until we see the governor's proposal,” Riddle said.

DeCotis noted other issues that may be included in the governor's reform plan that would affect the county, such as proposed cuts in the transportation budget, elimination of funding for vocational, writing and language labs, and cuts in planning time from 90 minutes to 55 minutes for middle school and high school teachers.

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