By: Eddy Gifford, Publisher
The Dade County
Board of Education held its first regularly scheduled meeting of the New Year
last week and what was expected to be a short meeting turned into a three hour
debate on House Bill 302.
House Bill 302
exempts senior citizens from school tax on their house and five acres of land
and was approved by Dade County voters in 2006 by 73 percent approval.
Schools Superintendent Shawn Tobin opened the meeting with a power point
presentation and handouts explaining how much money the school system has lost
over the last few years, not only from HB302 but from state funding as well.
Tobin explained that the school system has had to cut expenses through cutting
programs, cutting staff, cutting school days, cutting paid days for teachers
and administrators and cutting benefits.
cuts the system has to contribute more for insurance and re-work bus routes to
be more efficient.
With over 1,700
senior residents currently signed up for the exemption the school system is
losing approximately $1,289,450 based on the average cost of a home in Dade
County being $125,000.
pointed out that the number of seniors in Dade County is increasing and is
currently 15.8 percent, up from 11.8 percent a few years ago.
public input the first to speak was Veronica Moore, a Lookout Mountain
that the 65/5 exemption was a great relief and greatly appreciated by seniors
whose checks have stopped, health concerns and a failing economy. She added,
“Money is not the only key to success in education.”
was the next to speak, also a Lookout Mountain resident. She also spoke in
opposition to the changing of HB 302. Hartman stated, “You are sending a
message of division and conflict in Dade County.” She also referred to a recent
article in the Chattanooga News Free Press and called statements by
Superintendent Tobin as harassment and called the reasoning behind amending the
bill as a socialistic idea.
Hartman was the
first to question the wording of the amendment as it relates to fair market
value. This conflicts with HB 918 and HB 919 as they pertain to the freeze on
property values. Hartman stated the wording indicated seniors would pay on the
fair market value instead of the frozen value as is the case now.
spoke next and gave a handout to those in attendance with his 12 points against
modifying HB 302. One of the points Summers made was quoting from the Jan. 12,
2014, Times Free Press article quoting Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, “Significant
amount of additional funds for education will be done in such a way that it
will relieve much of the pressure school districts have been under.”
Summers pointed out the school system just recently received $314,454.54 from
the Preserve settlement.
Ginnie Sams was
the first to speak in favor of the amendment change. “When I built my house I
recognized the value of the house is not the end of the expenses of the house,
there are repairs, utilities, and property taxes. I built that into my budget,”
she said. Sams points out that the voters should decide if they agree or
disagree with the Board on the amendment. Sams is also from Lookout Mountain.
David Moore of
Lookout Mountain pointed out that some taxes would increase three-fold and in
some cases even four times what they are currently paying. “That is a hard
number to swallow,” Moore stated. He also referred to the Times Free Press
article about additional state funding.
also of Lookout Mountain, pointed out that the value of one’s home does not
relate to the ability to pay taxes and stressed the need to at least clarify
the language as it relates to HB 918 and HB 919.
County Commissioner Sarah Moore of Lookout Mountain was next to speak and she
pointed out she was one of the Commissioners who requested HB 302 in the first
place. “As a new Commissioner in 2005, when Ben Brandon introduced this, I had
not done a lot of the research I should have done. It would not have passed. I
feel the voters should be given the opportunity to vote on this and it should
not affect HB 918 and HB919,” Moore stated.
Don Hartman of
Lookout Mountain said he didn’t read the rules of speaking to the Board of
Education before hand and had questions for the Board and Superintendent. Since
he couldn’t do that he said as a lawyer he would disagree and that the
amendment would affect HB 918 and 919.
stated he was sorry it has come to an argument. “What the school board hears
and the audience hears is a well orchestrated argument by Superintendent Tobin.
It has been presented from an adversarial position by the Superintendent and
that’s his job,” he added.
The last person
to speak was Jamie Blevins of Lookout Mountain who supported the amendment but
agreed that the effects on HB 918 and HB 919 should be looked into. “People
need to vote their conscience and just let the amendment be put to a vote,” he
In the business
portion of the meeting the Board approved the consent agenda that included
additional fundraisers for Dade High School, Dade Middle School, Dade and Davis
Policy JB – Changes to High School Attendance was approved as well as a change
order on a SPLOST project; Reeves Heating and Air bid for repairs.
was the weather make-up day for Monday, Feb. 17.
Action items at
the meeting included the purchase of video surveillance system for Dade
Elementary School from Intec. SPLOST money will also be used for the purchase.
Tobin then gave the general fund financial reports for two months and the
meeting was adjourned.