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Delegates hear issues from BOE

COVINGTON - Two Newton County state legislative delegates attended the Newton County Board of Education's meeting last week to hear the board's concerns.

"This meeting is a tradition of the past few years," said Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley before the meeting.

After inviting the county's four delegates earlier this year to hear the board's legislative concerns, State Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle) and State Rep. Doug Holt (R-Social Circle) attended Tuesday's combined work session and regular monthly meeting before the state session starts again Jan. 12.

In November, the board members selected 10 issues they felt most important to present to the legislators that give their positions on state policies, procedures and funding of public schools.

"We realize there is a state and local budget crunch; we realize that we are one of the many agencies ... (and) all of us receive a slice of the state pie," Whatley said to the legislators. "Our concern this year ... really deals with issues such as authority and the economy and taxing."

Items on their list include supporting an increase in the state maximum class size requirements, a fair and equitable tax reform and increase of funding for maintenance and operations and not supporting the taking away of local funding power and vouchers to allocate public funds for private schools and home study, among other issues.

"We know you have a difficult situation," Whatley told the legislators. "We feel education is a top priority in this district and this state."

Board members especially wanted the legislators to know how certain tax cuts hurt the local school systems.

"It's not really relief; it gets passed down," board member Cathy Dobbs said. "The bottom line is you get what you pay for. ... We're going to have to cut services when we'd like to have a quality (school system). That's what we'd like in Newton County."

Douglas, a former Newton County BOE member, and Holt said they appreciate the invitation to the meeting and also the hard work of the board and the school system; they listened to the board's concerns, commented on a few of them and told school officials they would keep the conversation in mind during the session.

"This is good food for thought for me," Holt said.

Douglas said he's glad to see the growth in Newton County slow down so the system can catch up for the moment, and Whatley reminded him that eventually families would move into the unsold dwellings and new homes in the county to once again fill up the school system.

"The pains should be less, and we'll do whatever we can," Holt said.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At A Glance

2009 Legislative Priorities for the Newton County Board of Education

1. Compliance with maximum class-size

requirements

2. Tax reform

3. State tax policy

4. Impact of tax legislation

5. Authority over local funs

6. Study committee on governance issues

7. Capital Outlay - regular and exceptional growth entitlements

8. Vouchers

9. Appropriation of funds for educational resources and textbooks

10. Maintenance and operation funding