Banks pushed for the approval to give permission for the board chair to sign a resolution that would be sent to the Georgia Association of Educators, assuring it of the board’s endorsement of the tax proposal.
The proposed 1-cent tax, called a Local Education Sales Tax, or LEST, would allow communities to raise their sales tax rate.
Banks introduced the legislation at the board’s Oct. 9 meeting, but not all board members are keen to sign their names to the legislation.
After a heated debate, where board members were split on their support for the measure, Chairman Randy Scamihorn asked Banks to rewrite the letter and send it back to board members with a bit more clarity.
“After reading this a couple of times, I believe it needs to be redrafted. It’s not clear what we are asking for in the letter. It’s just absolutely not clear,” Scamihorn said.
Banks agreed, and sent out a revised letter to board members this week that included, “the major provisions of the legislation, and why we are in this position to begin with.”
Banks is concerned about the lack of funding the school board has in its budget this year, which he said is expected to fall about $80 million short this year.
“The only alternative you got is to raise classroom sizes or cut teachers and we don’t have to if the legislators will do this,” he said.
Not all of his fellow board members seemed to agree, however.
“I’m not going to support it,” said board member Kathleen Angelucci.
Board member Tim Stultz echoed her belief.
“I do not believe that we need to be taking any more money out of taxpayer’s pockets to pay for more taxes,” he said.
Banks has been adamant that the proposed legislation would not signify a tax increase, because it is just a piece of legislation, he said. However, if the legislation is taken up by state legislators, who then approve to amend the state Constitution, the LEST tax could become reality to Cobb County residents in the form of a tax.
To become law in Cobb County, the legislation would first have to be brought up in the State House of Representatives, and then approved by a two-thirds majority of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, according to state law. Then, the residents of Georgia would have to approve the Constitution being amended. If the state votes to approve the measure, then individual county school boards would have the option to hold a county-wide referendum to approve adopting the additional 1-cent tax.
As of Thursday afternoon, a revised copy of Banks’ proposed letter was delivered to school board members that asked them to vote to adopt a resolution at its next meeting that read:
“Be it resolved that: The Cobb County Board of Education supports, as an alternative to supplement declining revenues to adequately fund school systems in maintaining ‘Quality Education,’ a proposed Amendment to the Constitution of the State of Georgia which would authorize a local School Board of Education, subject to a requirement of referendum and voter approval, to impose an additional 1 percent sales tax for a limited period of time, to be used solely for the support and maintenance of public schools and to mandate on counties with populations greater than 50,000 school property tax relief equaling 30 percent of LEST proceeds collected annually.”
Board members will be asked to vote on authorizing Scamihorn to sign off on the resolution at their next meeting, Thursday, Oct. 24, Banks said.
Scamihorn said he was unclear if, regardless of what the board decides, the members who are opposed to the resolution might have a space to show that opposition in the letter being sent to GAE.
Cobb County Superintendent Michael Hinojosa has already supported the idea, Banks said, and is expected to sign off on the resolution regardless of the board’s decision.