At Issue: Are more teachers or lower taxes best for Fayette County?

On June 29, the Fayette County Board of Education will vote on the budget for the 2015-16 school year. The draft budget was presented to the board on June 1, and proposes to spend just under $184 million in the coming year, up $20 million from last year and including an $18.4 million fund balance. The increase is based on a projected 10-12 percent rise in property tax revenue since last year.

The proposed budget includes hiring more teachers as a means of reducing class sizes, and giving all employees a 2 percent cost-of-living raise. It will also restore some of the elementary school parapros and four high school assistant principal positions that were cut during the recession. Clerical, technical and administrative staff have also been added. Some of the positions are intended to address heavier workloads created by new assessment standards for students and teachers.

Board member Barry Marchman has questioned the size of the proposed budget, claiming that Fayette County’s per-student expenditures are “really out of line with where we ought to be.” He suggested that the county consider a cap on school spending and adjust staffing accordingly, and that “it might be time to consider a millage reduction” below the allowed maximum of 20 mills.

Board members Diane Basham and Leonard Presberg said their talks with parents indicated a strong desire to reduce class sizes, and Dan Colwell cited the need to keep Fayette teachers’ salaries competitive.

So given Fayette’s economic climate, which is more important, more teachers or lower taxes? Send your thoughts to communitynews@ajc.com.

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