Valdosta Daily Times

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February 18, 2013

Legislative update


-- — All of this may sound quite simple, but some of the Internet marketers do not want to follow the Georgia law which is likely to result in drawn out litigation.  The auto tax changes bring some scenarios that were not envisioned when the bill was written.  We corrected some of those with HB 80, and I expect we will be addressing this code section again as other problems are brought to light.

Another issue that has consumed much of my time has been funding of our education systems and in particular our smaller systems and those systems that are defined as having “low wealth.”  Low wealth is determined by comparing the ad valorem tax digest with enrollment.

Most of our systems in South Georgia are considered “low wealth” because of high enrollment and the limited value of our property.  Last year the formula for determining low wealth was changed and the amount of money put in that program was reduced.  In the 2014 budget, which begins July 1, 2013, the governor has recommended increasing the funds for the equalization grant and I am in full support.  However, the governor has also recommended eliminating the sparsity grant for the smaller systems, which I oppose.  

I have come to realize that when we lobby for things like the equalization grant and the sparsity grant, it comes across to many as if we were pleading for welfare.  I firmly believe that most of my colleagues have a sense of fairness and seek justice, but many feel we have too much welfare.  I have been having some success with a different approach.  As opposed to begging for welfare, I have been pointing out that some of our other funding sources are grossly inequitable to our less wealthy systems.  The e-SPLOST tax generates money for the system in the counties where the money is spent without regards to where the people paying that tax may live and educate their children.  Data from the Department of Education provides the following examples:

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