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Complaint Unlikely to be Considered
Monday, 24 May 2010

May 24--  A complaint filed against the school superintendent in Montgomery County is unlikely to be considered by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

The complaint was filed by former county school superintendent Jim Paul Poole of Uvalda against Dr. Lynn Batten for alleged misuse of sales taxes collected by the school system.'

Poole contends a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax approved by the voters in March, 2005 doesn't allow the school board to spend sales tax money toward construction of a new middle/high school.  He notes the referendum question was only "for the purposes of making improvements and repairs to school system facilities and equipment purchases for use by students and school system staff."

A second referendum for sales tax money to help build a new school was defeated by voters last November.  As part of the new school construction process, the school board employed an architect to design the school and has paid some $500,000 taken from the sales tax account to pay for the design.

Poole agrees a new school is needed, but only when the economy improves.  

Dr. Batten responds to Poole's complaint with a letter which states that employing an architect is "within the scopeof making improvements to school system facilities."

Meanwhile, Dr. Gary Walker of the Professional Standards Commission says "the temporary use of SPLOST funds to offset a temporary budget shortfall would be subject to review by the Georgia Department of Audits, not the PSC."  He reports the PSC could investigate if an audit turned up misuse of funds and if unethical conduct was involved.

Other school superintendents contacted for this story believe Dr. Batten acted properly in paying the archtect with available SPLOST funds.

The majority of school board members believe a combination of state and federal funds which have been applied for will finance the school and that sales tax collections will repay federal assistance without raising county property taxes.  Poole disagrees and estimates an increase of three to four mils in school property taxes if the project is approved by voters.

The school board will decide if it wants to put the question back on the ballot in the November election.

 
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