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Bill by Forsyth lawmaker backs impact fees for schools
Williams - photo by FCN file photo

If you go

* What: Committee hearing on Senate Bill 344 to implement educational development impact fees

* When: 4 p.m. Monday

* Where: Capitol building, Atlanta

FORSYTH COUNTY — A lawmaker from Forsyth County is asking residents to join him in Atlanta on Monday to support a bill he sponsored that would allow Forsyth County to collect impact fees for education.

District 27 state Sen. Michael Williams sponsored Senate Bill 344 to implement educational development impact fees as additional financing for construction of new public schools and educational facilities.

A hearing on the bill will take place at 4 p.m. Monday in the Capitol Building. It is open to the public.

“Unless we get a lot of support at that meeting, I doubt very much it will move much,” Williams said.

He and two other senators — Brandon Beach, a Republican from nearby Alpharetta, and Fran Millar, a Republican from Dunwoody — co-sponsored the bill, but residents must show the need is there to make a constitutional amendment.

Currently, the Georgia Constitution does not allow school systems to collect impact fees, which are charges on new development.

Pushback on educational impact fees was received last year when a blanket implementation was thought to discourage builders in counties that need the growth.

The Forsyth County Board of Education has voiced its support of this bill, passing a resolution to ask for it.

“There is language in the bill that says this would only apply to counties experiencing high growth rates. By definition, only about three districts qualify, Forsyth County being one of them,” Williams said.

“We just passed a $200 million bond [program] and once the schools that have been built from that bond, and the add-ons to schools that are already here, we’re still going to be over-capacity at 80 to 90 percent of our schools,” he said. “Then we’re going to have to issue another bond.

“I don’t feel like it’s fair to place all of this on existing taxpayers.”

Education impact fees would allow Forsyth to collect funds needed to “put in more money sooner” to the district.

SB 344 cannot pass unless the state constitution is changed. Senate Resolution 624 would allow local boards of education to impose, levy and collect development impact fees for educational facilities.

Changing the constitution requires a public vote, Williams said.

If this bill and resolution get out of the committee at which they are being heard Monday, they will have to pass the state Senate by a two-thirds majority. Then they must pass the state House of Representatives by a two-thirds majority.

If that happens, voters will see it on their ballot in November, taking effect next year if a majority says yes.

“It is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure our students are receiving the best education possible. Unfortunately, with the over-crowding Forsyth County is experiencing, students are not receiving the attention they deserve,” Williams said.

“SB 344 will ease the burden of financing new school construction experienced by the local boards of education and will allow counties to build new classrooms.”

Also on the issue of education, Williams recently co-sponsored Senate Bill 355, called the Student/Teacher Protection Act.

The bill would drastically reduce the weight of test scores used in teacher evaluations from 50 percent to not more than 10 percent.

“Standardized testing in [kindergarten-12thgrade] classrooms has gotten out of hand,” he said. “In fact, according to a teacher study done by the Georgia Department of Education, 44 percent of teachers leave their jobs in the first five years and blame over-testing and the use of testing results in evaluations as the reason.”