School superintendent Dr. Jute Wilson has released a statement on behalf of the school board on controversial property tax assessments and school taxes.
The statement reads as as follows:
We are aware tax notices recently went out to Lamar County residents and want to clarify a few misconceptions:
The Lamar County School System has not, and does not plan to raise the school tax rate in Lamar. We have one of the lowest tax rates in the area, and we have lowered the tax rate every year since 2019. We hope to be able to lower it again this year, despite the fact we have no large commercial tax base or revenue stream in our county (interstate traffic, etc).
The Lamar County School System has nothing to do with property appraisals or tax assessments. This is a duty of the local tax office, who is required by state law to keep property assessments in line with current home values.
The Lamar County School System’s “per student expenditure” is far below the state average and amongst the lowest in the area.
The Lamar County School System did grant an income based “senior exemption” several years ago to ease the tax burden on the elderly. To clarify, all exemptions shift the tax burden to all other Lamar County citizens who do not qualify.
On average, school systems in Georgia rely on their local tax base to fund 45% of their annual budget.
The Lamar County School System annual budget is comprised 40% from local taxes.
We are currently building the 2022-23 Budget, and we will set the new tax rate in late July or August, at a rate as low as possible to effectively operate our system (like we do every year).
A few other mistruths floating along with these conversations:
We have never denied or discouraged public participation at school board meetings. We have procedures in place to hear and address concerns. None of these procedures are designed to limit or suppress speech. We are open to feedback at every level and have plans in place to address them at the root cause.
Not a penny of property tax was used to build or make payments on the new high school, stadium, fine arts center, or facility upgrades.
Some are using this opportunity to point out a “D Rating” of our system. This is a 2019 score based on 2018 data from a rating system where out of 212 reporting systems, only THREE systems (1.4%) received an “A” (a 90, and two 92’s) and only 16% received a “B”. Lamar was a “C” system in 2017 & 2018. It is worth pointing out that only public schools have accountability measures and targets.
Unfortunately COVID created a lapse in data to provide our progress. Our staff has worked hard to identify areas to improve upon, and we believe strides are being made in these areas.
We share in the frustration and concerns that mass inflation has caused Lamar County residents, and we will do our part to reduce the impact, while ensuring our students receive a quality education.
We sincerely appreciate your continued support.