Georgia House of Representative Dave Belton, R-Buckhead, made an appearance at the Newton County School Board meeting Tuesday night to discuss a slew of legislation that will affect the Newton County School System.
A major bill on the minds of school board members was the state’s transportation funding bill, HB 170, which was passed by the House Thursday and is still being deliberated on in the Georgia Senate.
The proposed bill would affect how the school board can spend its future funds raised from education local option sales tax, says Belton, who sits on the House’s education committee.
“My understanding is, the next ELOST, the money you raise from taxes from gas taxes will have to be put on transportation,” he told the board. “They expanded the word transportation to include buses and bus drivers.”
Also, as it’s currently written the bill raises the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon, which is likely to be changed by the Senate because it’s a huge tax increase, said Belton.
“I was never for (this bill),” Belton told the board. “In my opinion, it was going to steal from the local and give to the state and pretend like we weren’t raising taxes. Well we were. I never liked it.”
In 2012, Georgia citizens didn’t approve a transportation SPLOST, which would have raised taxes.
Belton recused himself from the vote on this bill, which passed 123-46 in the House, because he’s an employee of Delta Airlines. HB 170 also puts an end to tax breaks placed on jet fuel that airlines have been receiving since the mid-2000s.
In an e-mail statement, NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey says that “every penny” of tax money raised should go to the general fund. In not doing so, the lack of funds could negatively affect the school district’s ability to finance projects by more than $8.5 million over the life of an ELOST.
Governor Nathan Deal is the major factor in the transportation bill moving along.
“The reason why we’re doing this is because the governor really wants a billion dollars a year for transportation,” said Belton.
Education savings account
This bill drew some ire from the school board as well.
The education savings account, HB 243, would allow certain qualified kids to attend private school or pay for home schooling by using state money, which would go to a public school.
“I’m not in favor of this bill,” said Belton. “It’s probably worse, to me, than a universal voucher bill.”
He says he doesn’t support the bill because there’s very little accountability in the bill as it’s currently written.
“There’s no accountability on how the money will be spent,” he said. “You can theoretically, in my opinion, go to a dolphin excursion in Cancun, (Mexico) and say this is an education experience.”
The passage of this bill into law could result in $180 million dollars being taken from state education funds, says Belton.
Fuhrey is also not on board with this plan because, “it further erodes public school funding.”
The bill is still in the House and could be voted on today.
Get a high school diploma
The Senate passed a bill that would allow students in technical college to obtain a high school diploma if they complete certain core requirements while dual enrolled in school.
SB 2 was favorably received by the education committee in the House Mar. 3.