The closure of Plant Hammond is going to deal a large blow to the Floyd County Schools budget. According to Superintendent Jeff Wilson the system is expecting to lose at least $2.5 million.
Georgia Power filed its 2019 Integrated Resource Plan with the Georgia Public Service Commission on Jan. 31. Closing Plant Hammond was part of that plan and the plant officially shut down on July 16.
School systems are funded by property taxes, and Plant Hammond, according to Floyd County Tax Commissioner Kevin Payne, was the county’s largest taxpayer prior to closing.
With the plant no longer operating, the property value will go down significantly, affecting school budgets.
“There’s no way to replace that (tax revenue),” Payne said previously. “They are our largest taxpayer and there’s nobody close.”
At this point, school officials aren’t sure if the effects of the closure will come all at once or over the course of a few years. But, at this point, they are looking at how best to serve their student bodies with the facilities they currently have.
“The big talk is the number of properties versus the number of students,” Wilson said. Right now, there are 9,500 students in the county. Previously, there were at least 11,000 students within the system, according to Wilson.
At least in the county, they are facing a two-fold issue. A slower birth rate has also recently contributed to an enrollment drop, Wilson said. At this point, the system hasn’t ruled out any option for figuring out how to deal with the issue.
“Nothing’s ruled out,” Wilson said. “We’re looking at every option. But we’re hoping to see the population increasing.”
Wilson would rule one thing out, however.
“We’re not looking at people,” he said. “Cutting programs and teachers is not in the plan. We’ve really gotten at a really good spot with student and teacher ratios. It would be one of the last things we would consider.”
It’s also likely that Rome City Schools will lose some money due to the closure of the power plant. It may not be as substantial as what the county is facing since most public utilities are used by the county and not the city.
“It’s going to have an impact,” Rome City Schools Superintendent Lou Byars said. “It doesn’t mean it won’t have a significant impact.”
Byars said they won’t fully know that impact until May.