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School board floats solutions
Legislators asked to mind money
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Forsyth County News
The Forsyth County school board wants the local state legislative delegation to consider other options before further cutting education funding.

Every year, the board reviews a list of priorities with local legislators in hopes they will consider its wishes during the General Assembly.

Topping this year’s list is a request that legislators weigh the local and financial impact of any new bills, and consider giving school districts more flexibility.

“We’ve tried to keep our legislative priorities down to a minimum,” said Superintendent Buster Evans. “There’s not a lot of big requests for money because we realize that we want to be realistic in what we ask for.

“But we’re also coming forward with things that we think might be solutions, as opposed to just complaining and writing about the problems.”

Evans remarks were part of lunch meeting Monday attended by three of the delegation’s five members, all of whom are Republicans.

The board’s second priority is tax expenditure. In addition to eliminating exemptions and studying tax reform, it asked legislators to tap into new streams of revenue, including cigarette and alcohol taxes.

Among possibilities of reform, Evans said, is taxing sales on the Internet.

State Sen. Jack Murphy said that matter is being explored.

“I can assure you that’s being studied,” he said, noting the issue isn’t about taxing business. “That’s to put businesses on the same playing field as other businesses.”

State Rep. Mark Hamilton recalled a cigarette tax introduced last year that was dead on arrival and noted an Internet tax may see the same fate.

With taxing Internet companies, there are “a lot of people that see a lot of potential revenue there, obviously, but then a lot of people see it as a tax increase.”

State Rep. Tom Knox agreed, saying he didn’t think any tax increase at the state level is “going to fly.”

On the topic of aviation, Hamilton pointed to Delta Airlines to explain why exemptions could cost the state more up front, but yield a greater return in the end.

“If we didn’t pass the jet fuel tax [exemption] this last year, Delta would be headquartered in Minneapolis,” he said. “The reality is ... if you did away with the exemptions, you’d probably lose the business.”

But Board Chairwoman Ann Crow, who owns a small business with her husband, said there needs to be some effort.

Times are difficult, she said, but legislators need to look at all possible options.

For the third priority, the school board wants the state to extend its funding program for exceptional growth school systems.

That arrangement, which brings Forsyth County an additional $100 million, is set to expire in 2010.

Crow said while Forsyth is more fortunate than other counties, “less legislation is better ... for everybody.”

“We all need to work together,” she said. “I think it’s very important that we continue to respect that at the end of this day, we all work together for what’s best — not only for Forsyth County, but for the state of Georgia.”