Monday, April 24, 2006

Perdue Leaves Schools Cash-Strapped

Do you care if your property tax is increased- again? Does it matter if your child has an experienced teacher? What about art and music programs? Are you ready for those cuts? If you live in Georgia, get ready for all that and more. In this election year, The Perdue Team passed feel-good laws and, in large part, left it up to "somebody else" to figure out how to pay for it all. Now there's a great leader....

If today's Telegraph article, Bibb Schools Facing Money Crunch to Meet State Mandates , is any indication, then local property taxes are on the way up, and certain programs and services are on their way to the chopping block.

After three years of austerity cuts, totally more than $1.2 billion, this year school districts do expect an increase in revenue from the state; however, it will not be nearly enough to cover costs of new unfunded mandates. For example, the new requirements will cost Bibb County an estimated $10 million, and the State will only provide an additional $6 million. The other four million will either come from the taxpayers , through layoffs, or through cuts to programs like art and music.

Here's a glimpse of the problems Perdue passed along. (I am using Bibb numbers as an example.)

1. The 4% teacher salary increase adds $4.2 million, and the system's cost for insurance will increase from 14% to 16%.

2. New state requirements for fiscal accountability will require about five new bookkeepers, increasing administrative (not in the classroom) expenses by $178,000.

3. Classroom size reduction will require Bibb to hire 40 teachers in addition to the 250 they planned to hire.Teachers are hard to find, and funding shortages make it harder for local districts to offer incentives, making it likely that less experienced educators will find their way into classrooms.

4. $1.5 million will be needed to replace every social studies textbook, for every grade.

No one objects to smaller classes or raising teacher pay, but you don't get a pat on the back just for passing the law: you have to figure out how to fund it. The Governor is pleased to leave that problem, and the blame for increased taxes, at the doorstep of local school districts. I think that we can safely say that Sonny is not the "Education Governor."

Someone, somewhere needs to do the math: If, for the last three years, we take the overall decrease in $$ flowing to education and then add the increased cost of new unfunded mandates, how much has the Perdue Team taken from local school systems? I bet it's an impressive number!

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