State Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon
Bibb County schools are dysfunctional and a "sinking ship" that discourage businesses from moving here.
They need to get their spending under control and the school board and superintendent need to "get their act together."
Those were some of the comments by two Republican legislators who want to take away the Bibb County school board's power to spend and tax.
State Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) held a news conference Wednesday to propose legislation. He was joined by State Rep. Allen Peake, who spoke on behalf of the bill.
The bill got a mixed reaction from school board members: Jason Downey supported it; Wanda West and Lester Miller were against it.
According to a press statement from Staton's Atlanta office, "Under existing law, budgeting and taxing authority is the responsibility of the local Board of Education. This legislation would reinstate the Macon-Bibb County Commission as the funding authority for Macon-Bibb County; a responsibility it held prior to it being given to the local board of education."
Staton said that means the county commission would have line item authority over the school budget, not just approval of the bottom line.
He said the district needs to spend its money more wisely and avoid its frequent deficits. He says they spend too much on administration and not enough on education.
He said there's too much dysfunction. People need to send a message that "we've had enough," Staton said.
He will file the bill as local legislation next week, he said, and if approved, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2014. That's when the new consolidated Macon and Bibb government is launched.
Peake called the district "a sinking ship."
Reached by phone Wednesday morning, State Sen. David Lucas (D-Macon) told 13WMAZ's Randall Savage, "As far as I am concerned, it's racist. It's racism at it's worst."
Lucas called it, "another movement in (the) white Republican effort to get rid of" embattled Bibb Superintendent Romain Dallemand.
State Rep. Nikki Randall said the proposal would be "bad timing" and would add too much to the responsibility already facing officials in the new consolidated government.
It was nine years ago that voters in Bibb County approved the proposal that enables the local board to set its own millage rate.
13WMAZ called all the members of the Bibb County Board of Education.
Wanda West released this statement:
"I do not agree. Bibb County was the last county in Georgia to give the board the right to set the millage rate based upon the need of the school district to educate it's children. I think it brews catastrophe and mistrust. I further think that the leaders of the total community should come together and re-direct a vision of partnership instead of battleships for the Macon-Bibb County community. I do not think decision should be made in isolation without the input of the officials that serve the board of education on behalf of the community." -Dr. Wanda West
New member Lester Miller said:
"I believe that the school board should maintain their taxing authority. The bill should not be drafted because of some immediate reaction to what's going on with the board. There is no guarantee that a newly consolidated government could manage the educational needs of the children even better. The rational thing to do is to let the newly elected board of education members have the opportunity to improve finances of the budget."
And in a news release, Jason Downey wrote:
"No one believes this is an ideal solution, but we have a serious and real problem related to our BOE Budget. We must use this legislation as a call or charge to stop operating in a fiscally irresponsible way that is financially burdensome and affects our children's education. This is a time for fiscal responsibility, and devoting all of our energies into the classroom where teachers can make a difference in the lives of our children. We as a board cannot support budgets that are out of balance by millions of dollars, depleting reserves. I have heard from many parents across Bibb County who are crying out for hope and who are frustrated by the financial situation of our Board. While it is a sad commentary, I understand their frustration and why Senator Staton is offering his bill. I will follow the progress and offer to help in any way I can that will refocus the board on its proper duties--our children, their education and their future It is unfortunate that it has come to this. This is a time for us as a Board to come together and develop the policies and procedures we need to assure fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets."
Other school board members could not be reached for comment.