SUWANEE -- A state agency is taking the position that the local school district may be out of line in paying the salaries for two positions dedicated to an economic development program in Gwinnett County. A spokesperson with the district, however, said Gwinnett County Public Schools has adhered to board policy and state law.
The Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts recently drafted a letter to the state Department of Education advising the DOE to seek legal advice from the State Attorney General's office regarding the expenditures by Gwinnett County Public Schools.
According to District Spokesperson Sloan Roach, GCPS pays the salaries for two positions dedicated to economic development because it is valuable to local education.
"There is significant value to the school district in ensuring the economic vitality of Gwinnett County," Roach said. "According to the Partnership Gwinnett Annual Report, the initiative generated over $800 million in its first five years."
A Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce program, Partnership Gwinnett sells the county's image to businesses on an international scale.
Roach pointed out that the district, however, "could not and did not make a monetary contribution to Partnership Gwinnett."
"GCPS has provided two positions that have been devoted to economic development strategies at a cost of $150,000 a year," Roach said. "These positions work to increase the property tax base, the district's only source of local revenue."
She said the positions have been provided for six years at a total cost of $900,000.
A member of a local watchdog group doesn't think that the school district should be using education funds for economic development.
Sabrina Smith, with Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government, said she has questioned education leaders with Gwinnett County Public Schools about the matter but has received no response.
Smith said that the Attorney General's office is investigating. In an Oct. 4 email Smith that shared from the Georgia Department of Education, a staff member confirmed that legal advice would likely be sought through the Attorney General's Office.