December 19, 2017 Atlanta - A guest takes a selfie after a tour of Delta 747 during a 747 hangar party Tuesday night at Delta TechOps on Tuesday, December 19, 2017. The Atlanta-based airline now plans to operate the final commercial flight of the 747 jumbo jet on Tuesday Dec. 19, from Seoul to Detroit, two days later than previously planned. Hyosub Shin /

Clayton Co. school superintendent picks a fight with Delta over fuel tax

You don’t often see a school superintendent pick a fight with one of the region’s big economic powerhouses. And yet that’s what’s happening in Clayton County.

On Friday, Morcease Beasley, head of the Clayton school system, put out a YouTube video to rally opposition to House Bill 821, a tax package endorsed by Gov. Nathan Deal that would, among other things, exempt Delta Air Lines from sales taxes on jet fuel. Watch it here:

Here’s your background from the AJC’s James Salzer:

Legislation to exempt jet fuel and construction materials used in a Georgia Aquarium expansion from taxes, and a bill to raise tag fees for many used-car buyers are advancing through the state House.

A key panel, the state House Ways and Means Committee, approved more than a dozen tax bills Thursday, including Gov. Nathan Deal's measure that puts off dealing with a mammoth state income tax windfall brought about by the federal tax plan that Congress approved in December.

Deal has urged the General Assembly to move rapidly on his bill -- which also includes the jet fuel break that mostly benefits air carriers such as Delta Air Lines. Thursday's votes came less than a week after House Bill 821 was filed.

Deal’s top aide, Chris Riley, wrote on Twitter that there’s a wrinkle to Beasley’s article. He said Clayton County is “federally prohibited from spending the local sales tax collected on jet fuel after 1987 on anything other than airports.” 

The measure, he added, "does not remove the local sales tax on jet fuel in place prior to 1987.”

There is an connection here. The governor and others say the tax break would encourage Delta to schedule more flights to overseas destinations.

But Beasley, the Clayton school superintendent, says the tax break would hurt the 54,000 students. The county school system is the fifth largest in Georgia.

“If there ever was a time to fight, if you ever wanted to fight, this is the opportunity to fight,” Beasley said, addressing parents. “If this bill passes, we will lose roughly $20 million in SPLOST funds. Which means projects will be compromised, projects will be decreased.”

The school superintendent noted that county was already missing out on property taxes on the 3,000-plus acres of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport that are in Clayton County. He estimated the loss to the school system amounted to $111 million a year. 

“Yes, we want Delta to be successful. Many of you work for Delta. Many of our parents work for Delta. We understand that. But I would imagine that the shareholders would want Delta to do the right thing,” Beasley said in the video. “All we want is a solution that takes nothing away from children here in Clayton County.”

The video advertised a community meeting to be held at 3 p.m. today at Drew High School.

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About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.