Q and a paulding county school board candidate trudy sowar news mdjonline.com grade 9 electricity unit

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Q: The millage rate dedicated to schools makes up a majority of Paulding County’s property tax bill. Yet, the school district’s costs of retirement, materials, the need for more teachers, more buses and other areas keep increasing. What are one or two ways you believe these overall costs can be managed to avoid the need for increasing the tax rate in a fast-growing county like Paulding which relies so heavily on the residential sector for revenues?

A: Increases in student enrollment require additional teachers, support staff, materials, and buses. Any student who meets age and residency requirements is eligible for enrollment in our school district. While the state determines maximum class size for the different grade levels, a good rule of thumb is that for every 20 students, we need an additional classroom. That means a teacher with a starting salary around $34,000 plus benefits, a physical classroom, books, and ancillary materials. Transportation costs and M&O (Maintenance and Operations) expenditures (water, gas, electricity, and building upkeep) have increased $150.00 per FTE (Full Time Equivalent student) in the past five years. Student enrollment has increased by nearly 1,000 students in the same period of time. The projection for FY19 is 530 new students. The growth is back!

At the March 13, 2018, Board of Education meeting an outstanding overview of the projected growth and financial position of the district was presented. We are the 13th largest district in the state with almost 30,000 students. We are also a low wealth district and will receive $29 million in equalization funding intended to narrow the gap between systems in terms of property tax wealth per pupil. Paulding is 152 of the 180 school districts in expenditures per student.

Regarding the cost of retirement, those costs are determined at the state level and are beyond the control of the district. We have seen a 103% increase in required employer contributions since 2012. Employees also contribute at a rate of 6% toward their retirement.

I would like to tell you that there is a solution that lies within the control of the school district and that, if elected, we will roll back the millage rate. I can’t do that and anyone who does simply doesn’t understand the issues. The only possible solution for now is to increase our business and industrial tax base. We must work together in a strategic, purposeful manner with the County Commission, the Industrial Building Authority, the Chamber of Commerce, city and county governments, and the entire community develop a culture of harmony, transparency, and a “can do” attitude.

Q: According to state law, the school board’s fundamental role is to establish policy for the district with the focus on student achievement. What is one addition or change to current Paulding County School Board policy that you feel could improve student performance in Paulding County schools, or are you satisfied current policies are working?

Our students rise to the expectations we set for them. School leadership is built on a relationship of trust and mutual respect. Those who serve as board members must truly believe in public education. Their decisions must reflect their support for public education. This is not about individual agendas nor about future political aspirations. Service on the board is about the students of Paulding County and the dedicated teachers and staff who have chosen to work in support of them. They are all depending on strong leadership and a focus on student success.

Our strategic plan drives the work of the district. This plan was collaboratively developed and includes regular progress reports. I encourage you all to review the plan which is available on the Paulding County School District website. As a new board member, I would recommend an annual policy review to ensure that no state or board rule has been overlooked which could require either a new policy or a revision to a current policy, regulation, or administrative procedure.