Rep. Tom Taylor, right, speaks with Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones during last year’s legislative session. Taylor is proposing legislation to property taxes collected for DeKalb County schools. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Cut to DeKalb school spending proposed

A DeKalb legislator is proposing a tax cut that would reduce county school system spending by $56 million a year.

Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, told the county’s legislative delegation Monday that the school system’s property tax rate should be lowered to the same level as other schools across Georgia. DeKalb schools currently impose a higher tax rate than the norm because of an exception created more than 30 years ago.

“That money belongs to the taxpayers,” Taylor said. “We have the highest millage rate in the state with the lowest return.”

Several state lawmakers said they were concerned that slashing educational resources would harm students.

“I have a serious problem at this point with taking $56 million out of the system,” said Rep. Michele Henson, D-Stone Mountain. “I understand how important it is to educate our children and to put the resources we need into our public schools in DeKalb County.”

Taylor said Georgia law sets a property tax limit of 20 mills on most school systems in the state, but DeKalb has been allowed to exceed that rate since the 1970s because the county school system previously managed a junior college in addition to elementary and high schools.

Taylor said he will introduce a general bill on Tuesday to re-institute the 20-mill cap statewide.

DeKalb County’s current tax rate for schools is 23.73 mills. Atlanta Public Schools also exceeds Taylor’s proposed limit with its 21.64 millage rate.

Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, said he’d like the DeKalb school system to be more responsive to issues like a proposal to support the redevelopment of the torn-down General Motors factory in Doraville. DeKalb Superintendent Steve Green has said he won’t participate financially in the mixed-use project.

“I’m disappointed that we don’t seem to have a lot of cooperation between the entities we’ve got out there, between the school system, our county and our cities,” Millar said. “If you’re going to stand alone, stand alone. So I understand why you brought the bill.”

DeKalb delegation Chairman Howard Mosby, D-Atlanta, said he would arrange a meeting with legislators, Green and school board Chairman Melvin Johnson.

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