Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Equalization or Robbery?

The topic of Georgia's "Equalization" grants has been brought up here several times - prompting me to make a post solely dedicated to the subject. One contributor wrote, "Interestingly DeKalb is one of the districts currently levying a millage rate in excess of the State's constitutional cap. This irks some since many Counties receiving benefit from the Equalization part of the funding formula have MUCH lower millage rates."

Some of our brilliant bloggers researched the topic and found the following resources:

The full text of the equalization grant statute, OCGA Sec. 20-2-165 can be found at this link. The legislation describes the funding formula in detail.

The Georgia School Council Institute has put together a nice nine page write up on school funding. Take a look at page 4 of the .pdf file found at this link. Page 3 may also be of interest to help avoid confusion of "Local 5-mills / Local Fair Share" vs. "Equalization".

Also check out:

Where the funds for equalization come from.

And where they go, as described in Senator Jack Hill's essay on the subject. The section on equalization starts about halfway down.

Click here to read Part 2 of the Senator's essay.

Also, the amounts reallocated can be found at this link at the Georgia DOE's website. (After clicking Set FY, choose QBE003, System allotment sheets)

Do all this reading and then post your thoughts in the comments.


Anonymous said...

Having posed the question, let me say thank you to everyone who did this research. Interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

Per Part 2 of Senator Hill's link:


Winners – Fast growing large systems where growth in enrollment is higher than growth in tax base. Also, systems that have an increasing tax base and a rapidly growing enrollment.

Losers - Systems that do not receive any equalization due to flat enrollment and adequate tax base, also systems with no-growth or slow growth tax base and flat or declining enrollment."

If one believes that revenue raised "per mill per student" needs to be equalized from County to County in order to fund adequate education for all, that one must also be OK with DeKalb being a "loser" (again...sigh).

IMO this is a BS argument. How about taxing property owners in the receiving counties at the same rate we are taxed, and only then take some of our tax money to help them out. Hey, I'd be OK with that. But that's not how it works.

How can you explain that their $150,000 house in a "poorer county" is taxed at 15 mills, and my $150,000 house is taxed at 23 mills and I should be OK with sending them my money to help out?!

I'm all for public education and the American way, but this is simply outrageous.

Cerebration said...

Well, at least there's this little tidbit in the legislation --

to provide that such distribution method shall apply only through July 1, 2013

Cerebration said...

Also from Senator Jack Hill -

What has happened is that several large fast growing counties have seen growth in student population outstrip the ability of their tax base to keep up, and in the past two years, they have become eligible for increasingly larger portions of the funding.

Ten systems alone accounted for over $100 million of this growth, with the top two, Gwinnett and Clayton, growing by nearly $50 million.

As a result from FY08 to FY10:

· Gwinnett saw formula earnings increase 493%

· Bibb saw formula earnings increase 330%

· Clayton saw formula earnings increase 113%

· Henry saw formula earnings increase 109%

However, many growing school districts with strong tax bases have not seen the same kind of growth in their Equalization funding from FY08 to FY10:

· Schley saw formula earnings increase 9%

· Effingham saw formula earnings decrease 1%

· Long saw formula earnings decrease 31%

· Bryan saw formula earnings decrease 35%

Several large or growing districts with strong tax bases do not receive any Equalization funding at all. These include Fulton , Atlanta , Cobb, DeKalb, Cherokee and Forsyth counties.

Anonymous said...

Yea Cere, but it grinds me that some of these poorer systems aren't laying off teachers, aren't eliminating retirement contributions, aren't reducing pay of service or bus personnel, nor are they closing schools thanks in part to our contribution. And as a kick in the pants many are out performing DeKalb on test scores while mom & dad pay a much lower millage on a similarly valued home.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm upset that almost all of our schools are Title 1 low income schools, yet we are subsidizing counties who have very few Title 1 schools.

It's very typical of a legislature that is so dependent on non-urban voters. Georgia has more counties than any state so it makes sense they tilt toward non-urban counties. They denigrate the urban area while they feed at its trough.

Ella Smith said...

Anyone who knows me knows this has upset me for some time. I am a country girl. Well, I was raised in the mountains of Kentucky where there are many poor individuals.

I live in the location I live in and pay the taxes I pay because of the schools. I pay higher taxes to send my child to a good school. However, I feel every child in Dekalb county should have the same quality of education. I also feel every child in Georgia should have the same quality of education.

I believe that every taxpayer in Georgia should be taxed fairly. I am beginning to feel our system of taxing is unfair myself. I believe my taxes for school should stay in Dekalb for Dekalb students. I believe each county should be taxed enough to support their school system. If this is a problem then we need another way to pay for our schools that is fair to all involved. It is unfair to asked me in Dekalb to pay a higher ml rate and then take my money and fund a school system who has a lower ml rate. Why do I have to pay a higher ml rate if it is not needed to fund my school system and to pay for my needs for my county.

I do think it is time to speak out and either replace our representative to the state house and senate. They are robbing from us and know we do not have what we need. Something is wrong.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to figure out how DeKalb can tax at a millage rate higher than the constitutional ceiling of 20 mills. Our school millage rate is in excess of 22. Apparently, when the constitutional limit was enacted in 1983, school systems that previously were able to tax at a higher rate were grandfathered in so that they were not constrained by the limit. This begs the question, what is our ceiling?

Anonymous said...

Ella: This time we are completely aligned.

Our State House and Senate leaders are now forced to make tough choices. They can choose to fund education, or to fund other programs instead. It's that simple. There's money to keep stuff running, just not all the stuff.

So the rubber is now meeting the road. Their votes show where they are.

If your personal issue is with education, and your rep voted to fund it, then reelect him/her. If they didn't then vote 'em out. If you believe in your cause you need to get others on board because a single vote just doesn't matter.

Blog readers -- Sitting on the sidelines isn't helping your children or students. Your input is appreciated, but a blog entry in itself isn't making "change".

Please consider energizing those you know, then create critical mass and move things forward on behalf of the children who are trying so hard to accomplish the objectives and expectations we have for them.

Let's get the Grass Roots growing!

Anonymous said...

@9:32 I think it's 25 mills for DeKalb. Though others may be more knowledgeble.


Anonymous said...

Amidst your research, please also take a look at the size of these school systems -- neighbor counties who could consolidate -- but due to a host of reasons, not the least of which is provincial feifdom in much of the state, they won't. We talk much here of administrative costs and bloat -- if you take a per capita look at counties in non-Metro ATL, we could easily make a case for the same. It's just that they get away with not calling it bloat, because they're so small. They could very well do something about expenses and even the so-called depressed tax base (which ain't that depressed when some of that land is the most valuable in the state -- but I digress) -- but why, when their representatives under the Gold Dome are busy protecting them -- their roads, their culture, their very "way of life". Does this start to sound creepy? It should. The old "evil Metro vs. The Good Rural" is old and tired to many of us, but still resonates loudly at the capital. That's why absolutely nothing gets done in this state. And the education system follows this mantra.

So! What do we do about it? They (see how easy it is to start "us vs. them"? Sad) will continue to get our money, and since no innovative thing has come along yet it'll probably get extended past 2013. And they will call us stupid for living the metro life and stealing their pristine water while we pay out millions to their school systems.

If we could afford it now, I'd love to fight this battle. This has rubbed me for some years. Along with all of the tax abatements resulting in give-aways to lure businesses to Georgia. But we can't afford to fight this now. For a couple of reasons: (1) The state legislature requires a complete culture change first and that won't come from angry parents and taxpayers. (2) Our own house is dirty -- and we have to clean it in order to make the argument for our own money.

Let's keep cleaning house so that we can have legs to walk with. I don't live there and so am not privy to whisper campaigns and rumor mills. But for heavens' sake -- it's spring. And I've seen no press release or other announcement from BOE candidates.

Anonymous said...

Tough times.

Hug break.

Kisses to our teachers.


Thank you.

Cerebration said...

Check out this thread at the AJC Get Schooled blog.

It's from the Fayette Citizens for Children and it is an excellent school finance primer teaching citizens exactly how school funding is determined. Great stuff! More links within the article. Thanks to Fayette parents for this huge effort!

Anonymous said...

Gwinnett is posting that they are having a teacher job fair - supposedly hiring. With DeKalb's (and Fulton's and Cobb"s) money.
However, there are those testifying this is a ruse - that Gwinnett is secretly reducing its teacher numbers (see AJC Gwinnett blog - the post about Cobb budget). Even with DeKalb's (and Fulton's and Cobb"s) contributions to their coffers...

Either way they don't deserve to have us sacrifice to fund them.