Bibb County commissioners want state legislators to take note: They're not in favor of a piece of legislation proposed by Senator Cecil Staton.
Staton announced he wants to make the Macon-Bibb County Commission the funding authority over the board of education. That would give commissioners line-item authority over the school budget.
Friday morning, the current county commission passed a resolution with a 4-to-1 vote objecting to "any legislation that will remove from the Bibb County Board of Education its fiscal independence."
Commissioners argue that Bibb County residents voted in 2004 to let the school board make its own financial decisions, and state legislators should respect that.
"What bothers me is the idea that what the people of this county said they wanted can somehow, by legislative fiat, be done away with without giving the people who said they wanted fiscal independence the chance to weigh in again through the voting process," said commissioner Lonzy Edwards.
Chairman Sam Hart said with all the different funding streams and formulas that go into the school budget, commissioners may have to hire someone with that expertise in order to make an informed decision, and that would go against the fiscal goals of the consolidated government.
"With the mandate from the charter that says we've got to find savings of at least five percent each year, that's going to be almost impossible to do with this kind of additional responsibility."
Gary Bechtel, who was on the school board before and after it received financial independence, and is now on the county commission, says the commission shouldn't have to handle the financial decisions of another constitutional body.
"The responsibility for approving the budget and setting the millage rate needs to fall with the elected officials that are voted in by the public for that purpose," said Bechtel.
Joe Allen was the sole dissenting vote. He sat on the commission when they had control over the district's financial decisions. He says that worked well, and taxing decisions from one centralized body makes sense, but that decision should come from the public.
"Let the people vote. They voted to send it to the school board. Let them vote again. And if the people decide that they're happy with the way the school board is utilizing the money, then let the school board do it," said Allen.
Staton's proposal does not have a provision for a public vote. The senator's office says he intends to introduce the proposal as a bill Monday.