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Gainesville Schools OK with city limiting annexations

Gainesville officials said on Thursday that they’d like to limit annexations in the coming years as residential development takes off.

It came as a sigh of relief for school system officials who participated in a joint meeting with the City Council.

“One of the reasons … is because all the things we have in our existing borders right now that we have to deal with,” City Manager Bryan Lackey said.

Earlier this month, major changes to school attendance zones and limitations on school choice in Gainesville City Schools were approved in an effort to balance enrollment and open capacity for future growth.

But school officials said they don’t want to push the envelope and welcome more than they can handle.

Gainesville Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said, for example, that revenue from special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, is tied up in elementary school expansion.

That means there is limited project money for improvements already needed for Gainesville middle and high schools.

City officials have issued a record number of construction permits over the last three years, and school board member Andy Stewart said the number of undeveloped properties already zoned for construction is “a true eye opener.”

Councilman Sam Couvillon said some of the larger residential developments expected to break ground in the coming years are age-restricted.

“I’m not for annexation, generally speaking,” he said.

The likely retirees moving in, Couvillon said, will not burden the school system as much as younger families.

But that also means many of these residents might be exempt from paying taxes to support local public schools.

The development, however, is not relegated to one corridor or neighborhood in the city.

“I don’t think we’re looking to do a whole lot of annexations unless people come to us,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said. “We’ve always been aware of the situation with the school system. It has a huge impact.” 

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