Sunday, October 26, 2008

Vote YES on Amendment 2 to preserve local school control

The issue of tax allocation districts and permitting school system participation does not fit well into sound bites. Too often attempts at sound-bite messages distort or falsely state the truth. The most prominent sound bite in opposition to school system participation in TADS is that it "takes money away from our children."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Amendment 2 authorizes local school boards to participate voluntarily in funding redevelopment and revitalization efforts that preserve local control and transparency. It also provides future funding increases in support of the school system. Voting "yes" on Amendment 2 will modify the state constitution to permit increases in school tax revenues, based on the increased value of a revitalization project, to go toward paying for that project. Over time, the resulting new development will generate greater revenues to the school system.

Wonderful, but what about needed school revenues today?

Our school system, just as most parts of our economy and community, is facing increased funding pressures today. The school funding crisis is never more evident than in areas in need of revitalization and redevelopment where stagnating and declining property values contribute only a fraction of the tax revenues previously received by the schools.

Voting "yes" on Amendment 2 allows local school boards to evaluate on a case-by-case basis participating in revitalization projects funded via TAD bonds. Flexibility contained within the TAD laws not only provides for future funding increases to the school system, but also allows local school boards to negotiate, as a condition for their participation in a TAD, for additional school improvements and/or up-front payments. Voting "yes" on Amendment 2 provides local school boards the ability to immediately secure additional and accelerated school funding.

How often have we heard our elected zoning officials say, "We cannot consider schools in the zoning decision?" How often have we heard our elected school board officials say, "We have no input into development issues impacting our schools?" Voting "yes" on Amendment 2 permits our local school board to voice its support or opposition to specific revitalization projects influencing our schools.

School costs will most certainly increase over the next 25 to 30 years; Voting "yes" on Amendment 2 provides our local school board a flexible tool to assist in generating immediate and future revenues necessary to meet those costs. It further assists in returning declining and stagnant areas to their full taxpaying value so as not to be a drain on other taxpayers.

Voting "yes" on Amendment 2 does not take money away from our schools or children, it does not increase taxes of any kind and it does not abate taxes for any taxpayer. Voting "yes" on Amendment 2 preserves local control, provides transparency and secures funding for the benefit of Gwinnett County schools and our children's future.

Editorial published in the Gwinnett Daily Post, Sunday, October 26, 2008

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