That’s how Nicky Starling describes the Whitfield County Board of Education’s decision to raise the property tax rate from 14.756 mills to 18.756 mills on Sept. 28. It is one reason Starling, a Democrat, is running against District 1 Republican incumbent Thomas Barton on Nov. 6.
Asked what he would do differently, Starling said he would work with the other board members to “cut the budget to the bare bone and (only raise taxes) if the system was at the door of bankruptcy.”
“Whenever someone loses their job they dip into the nest egg,” said Starling. “The board should do the same. They have $10.8 million in reserves. They could go through the budget and effectively cut back, dip into reserves and then talk about a tax increase if that wasn’t enough.”
Asked what he would cut, Starling said he would “wait to get in there” before making decisions but pointed to the $43 million creation of Coahulla Creek High School and the $800,000 Literacy Collaborative — a program that trains teachers to use intensive techniques to help students develop strong reading and writing skills — as examples of “bad spending.”
He said he is “not totally against the (construction of Coahulla Creek High School) and the Literacy Collaborative. These are good programs, but the timing is bad because of the financial dilemma.”
Starling believes the budget also shows a lack of transparency because “the average person doesn’t understand what things like ‘administrative cost’ means.” Starling said he would try to itemize the budget in more detail in an effort to be “hands-on” with parents, students and staff.
“We need to be more visible, more transparent with citizens because our decisions impact their children,” he said. “I will be totally honest and transparent.”
A retired police officer and pastor of St. James Overcoming Church of God, Starling has a Doctorate of Ministry from Covington Theological Seminary and considers himself a “moderate Democrat.”
“I have worked with both sides on a multitude of committees,” said Starling. “I can work with anybody: Republicans, Democrats, the tea party, independents.”
Starling has served on the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, Community Housing Resource Board, Hamilton Medical Center Home Hospice Committee, United Way Planning Committee, Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care Center Board of Directors and the Northwest Georgia Regional Developmental Center Board of Directors.
He is a lifelong resident of Whitfield County where he lives with his wife Rhenda. His 9-year-old son attends Cedar Ridge Elementary.