MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Bibb County School Board members are starting to speak out today on news that State Senator Cecil Staton plans to introduce legislation that would remove their taxing authority to fund local schools to the new consolidated county commission when the new government takes shape next year.
We're working to talk to all of the Bibb County School Board members to gauge their reaction to the proposal.
School board member Dr. Wanda West told us, "What disturbs me is that the board of education had not been involved in any conversation in discussing taking away its power to tax. I just think they've launched another battleship, when we should be forming partnerships. I don't think industry will come, and this community will not grow with a house divided. Change will always take place... But, when the changes become that major, the people ought to have input. This divisiveness is killing this community."
Lester Miller began serving on the school board in January. He said, "I understand there's been some problems recently prior to my tenure, but I think with a new board, a lot of those issues can be addresses. What we need to do is put all this behind us and get back to the business of taking care of the children. It's almost like the senators are cutting my feet out from under me. What's the point of having all these new board members try to get things back on the fast track, if you're going to turn around and tie our hands at the same time. I feel a little disheartened about this. Hopefully, the bill isn't as serious as it looks like it might be right now."
Jason Downey, who also joined the board in Jauary released the following statement to 41NBC News.
No one believes this is an ideal solution, but we have a serious and real problem related to our BOE Budget. We must use this legislation as a call or charge to stop operating in a fiscally irresponsible way that is financially burdensome and affects our children's education. This is a time for fiscal responsibility, and devoting all of our energies into the classroom where teachers can make a difference in the lives of our children. We as a board cannot support budgets that are out of balance by millions of dollars, depleting reserves. I have heard from many parents across Bibb County who are crying out for hope and who are frustrated by the financial situation of our Board. While it is a sad commentary, I understand their frustration and why Senator Staton is offering his bill. I will follow the progress and offer to help in any way I can that will refocus the board on its proper duties--our children, their education and their future It is unfortunate that it has come to this. This is a time for us as a Board to come together and develop the policies and procedures we need to assure fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets.
41NBC also reached out to other board members today. Susan Sipe told us she wanted to review Staton's proposal before commenting. Tom Hudson and Ella Carter said they had no comment. Dr. Thelma Dillard and Lynn Farmer couldn't be reached for comment.
41NBC's Ashley Minelli is at the Capitol in Atlanta. She will have more on the plan tonight on 41NBC News and here on 41NBC.com.