Letter: Ending school annexation deal can put families in difficult spot

2018 promises to be yet another excellent year for Hall County students and families. I thank you in advance for the honor of working with our community’s most valuable resource, our boys and girls.

We have enjoyed significant cooperation with our sister system, Gainesville City Schools, and I hope that this spirit will continue as we seek even more ways to support each other. However, complicating issues exist when a community contains both a city and county school district within its borders. In our case, Hall County actually contains two city districts: Buford City Schools and Gainesville City Schools, both with school attendance zones and taxing capabilities within our county.

While these two districts provide additional educational opportunities and choices, ongoing annexations are a continual area of confusion for citizens. The Georgia Constitution contains a fatal flaw that was confirmed in a 1980’s court case. When a local municipality, in our case Gainesville or Buford, annexes Hall County property into their city limits, school district attendance zones and the school tax base are transferred simultaneously. 

First, this creates an immediate and unforeseen loss of county school property tax digest and transfers it to the city system. However, the issue that is even more troubling is that a family’s school district is changed overnight with the stroke of the annexation pen.

Twelve years ago, Gainesville City Schools and Hall County Schools sat down and crafted a thoughtful tax sharing agreement that is unique in Georgia. To summarize, the agreement created an inter-governmental agreement that would hold school boundaries and taxation collections stable regardless of annexations made by Gainesville. 

When a Hall County property is annexed by Gainesville, families have the option of continuing in the Hall County school their children are attending with no disruption to educational services. This agreement is scheduled to expire in 2018.

The Hall County School District has approached the Gainesville district for the past 18 months, desiring to extend this agreement into the foreseeable future and maintain the unprecedented sense of order it has created. Gainesville has made the decision to allow the agreement to expire without any sort of renewal.

I feel an obligation to let our community know that I believe this is a mistake. The absence of an inter-district agreement will create immediate uncertainty for between 100 and 200 students who will have their school districts changed, and untold numbers of families that will be affected in the future.

Rest assured that while the taxation issue is real and detrimental to the Hall County District, the uncertainty created for families is the most compelling reason that Hall County Schools seeks to extend the agreement that has consistently provided deserved stability for our community.

 I am expecting your Hall County School Board to direct me to notify families of the upcoming changes and provide them options for how we can lessen the effects of these changes for our families.

Will Schofield

Hall County Schools superintendent

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