Two Cartersville City School Board members who faced no opposition in a special election scheduled for March 19 were sworn in before a called meeting Thursday night.
Cartersville City Clerk Meredith Ulmer administered the short oath of office to Kathi White, the only candidate to qualify for the Ward 2 seat vacated by Floyd Braid last month, and Tim Chason, who was appointed to the at-large post in July 2017 to fill former board President Linda Benton’s unexpired term, just before board members met to vote on a resolution about senior taxes and two bid awards.
“I’m excited, and I’m really glad to be official,” said White, who was accompanied by her husband, Joe. “I’m ready to get started, to really just get into things, and that way, I can see more of what’s going on and get involved in it.”
She also said she’s met all the board members as well as other people in the community and has “just had some good conversations with people.”
“I think they’re a great board,” she said. “They get along. I think they put the children first and what’s important for the children in the city. They have done a fantastic job with our great system, and I want us to keep it that way.”
A fourth-generation teacher, White will chair the curriculum committee, a perfect fit for her background, she said.
“I’m really interested in what’s being done, since I was a teacher,” she said.
Her first order of business is to visit each school and “just sit down with the principals and kind of see what is going on at that school now — how things are being run, what programs they’re using,” White said.
“I just want to get a face-to-face interview with them to see what’s going on and what issues they have,” she said.
The 1967 graduate of Cartersville High, whose term expires in December 2021, was a primary grades classroom teacher for 37 years, 28 of which were spent in the Cartersville system.
The 2009 retiree and her husband have two daughters, Elizabeth and Emily, both CHS graduates.
Chason, 59, is honored to be able to keep serving the students and to finish Benton’s term, which ends Dec. 31.
“I’m very honored that I have the opportunity to be a part of this board of education and this school system, and I believe the citizens have entrusted not only myself but all of us,” he said. “We work as a team, from the folks who work in the school system to the kids. That’s what this is about, the children of our community, and I believe this gives us an opportunity to continue the tradition we’ve set forth and providing quality education for our community.”
The president of The Chason Group Inc. served two terms on the board — 2004 to 2012 — and will be up for re-election in November, but he said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll run again.
He and his wife, Lynne, have one daughter, Kelsey.
During the called meeting, board members unanimously adopted a resolution to oppose local legislation being proposed in the House of Representatives that would allow voters to approve or reject changes to the senior tax exemption in the November 2020 election.
The legislation proposes increasing the exemption to 50 percent of the assessed value of homes that do not exceed $500,000 for city residents who are at least 65, to 75 percent for residents who are at least 70 and to the full amount of the assessed value for residents who are at least 80.
The resolution said Cartersville seniors who are 65 by Jan. 1 already receive a school tax exemption for the first $28,000 of their home’s assessed value, and any increase in senior exemptions “will require an increase in non-senior and business owner tax bills.”
“The Cartersville City Board of Education believes this specific proposal will, in fact, require an increase in non-senior and business owner tax bills and will make it more difficult to provide quality free public education that benefits all the citizens of the city of Cartersville and is an economic development tool used to attract desirable business and industry to our community,” it said.
“Be it further resolved that the Cartersville City Board of Education does not support the local legislation being proposed and, specifically, does not support the changes in the senior tax exemption referenced therein.”
The document also noted the school district’s millage rate is the lowest it’s been in the last 17 years, which makes school taxes lower for all residents, not just seniors.
Board President Kelley Dial said she had a couple of reasons for opposing the proposed legislation.
“As the resolution says, our millage is as low now as it has been at any time in recent memory,” she said, noting the low rate is a good economic development tool. “We made it through hard economic times and did have to increase taxes, and that was painful.”
But with “good fiscal, responsible leadership” from former Superintendent Dr. Howard Hinesley and Finance Director Richard Dyke, “we made it through that, and we’ve been able to back off on taxes,” Dial said.
“I feel like we have given tax relief to all of the citizens of Cartersville when we can,” she said.
The president also said she doesn’t believe the school system is “in the business of figuring out how cheap you can get somebody a high school diploma.”
“I think we’re in the business of giving quality free public education, and we’re proud of the product that we put out,” she said.
Dial also said she doesn’t think the proposed legislation will give tax relief to the people who need it most.
“The specific proposal that, it’s our understanding, is going to be submitted is not something I can support,” she said. “I think it’s not geared toward giving the people who need tax relief, tax relief.”
Chason said he “echoed what Kelly said.”
“I believe that it is an economic development issue,” he said. “You can look at it in many different ways and different lights, but I truly believe this board has been elected by the people to take care of the fiscal concerns of our school system and our tax dollars, and I think we’ve shown that over the years and will continue to show that. This legislation is not the answer to senior tax relief as needed mainly in some areas but not in all areas.”
Board Vice President Travis Popham said he thinks the proposal is “a bit too quick and just doesn’t cover what we need.”
“I feel like a true solution would’ve been more of a dollar amount instead of a percentage,” he said. “It’s just too hard to figure the impact on this and what it will do to us.”
The board also unanimously voted to award a bid for wiring for the middle school campus to low bidder G&A Contracting Inc. in Blairsville at a cost of $115,085.19 and a bid for instructional furniture for the elementary school to low bidder Ernie Morris Enterprises Inc. in Bushnell, Florida, for $348,364.75.
Both purchases will be paid from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax fund.