$53.3M SPLOST wish list for city schools
by Jon Gillooly
jgillooly@mdjonline.com
September 08, 2012 12:56 AM | 3356 views | 6 6 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta Superientendent Emily Lembeck. <br> File photo
Marietta Superientendent Emily Lembeck.
File photo
slideshow
MARIETTA — Marietta City Schools Superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck unveiled a preliminary draft of $53.3 million in projects that would be funded if voters approve a fourth Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for education in March 2013.

Lembeck said the list was meant to be a working draft for the Board of Education, which reviewed it on Friday. Board attorney Clem Doyle said if an education SPLOST IV referendum is placed before voters next March, the school board needed to have an approved list sometime in November or December.

The current SPLOST III expires on Dec. 31, 2013. Were voters to approve a SPLOST IV, which would again raise the sales tax by one percent, it would span from Jan. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2018.

The tax is projected to collect about $50 million for Marietta over that period of time, said Danny Smith, the district’s director of maintenance and support.

Lembeck explained why a fourth SPLOST was needed.

“Why do this again? Well first of all we still have to pay down the remaining debt and quite honestly since 2003 even the state austerity cuts have impacted Marietta City Schools to about $30 million,” Lembeck said. “There is not money in the budget in order to fund the technology, the maintenance and the renovations required in our schools — basic roofing, paving and carpets. Student transportation is also something that is very difficult to fund. The state portion of funding that is very, very small. We have an aging bus fleet, so we’ll need to deal with that. Also in general, as you look at what is covered in this, there aren’t a lot of projects, a lot of different projects. The high level projects really are the debt retirement, the technology, and that’s instructional as well as infrastructure and administration, and then in general it’s just the maintenance and refurbishment of the existing facilities that we have.”

At the end of the SPLOST IV, the system, which is currently $22.5 million in debt, would be debt free, Smith said.

Of course, that was one of the selling points to get voters to pass the current SPLOST III. But then, no one expected the Great Recession to occur.

“The economy did not cooperate with anyone and had our collections come in as we anticipated we would have been there,” Lembeck said.

One of the larger construction projects in the proposal is $5.2 million to renovate Northcutt Stadium, including $630,000 for a synthetic turf football field.

Lembeck said the stadium, which was dedicated in 1940 with a Blue Devil 20-0 win over Fulton High, is in need of an overhaul.

“I think it’s important to the community, and we’ve heard it time and time again,” Lembeck said. “This stadium is in disrepair. It doesn’t even have a scoreboard that is functional. We hear all the time about the bathrooms, the visitor’s side, the concession stands, and on and on from those who attend the games in our community generation after generation who come together.”

The expense for artificial turf in the stadium raised the eyebrows of some board members. Smith said the surrounding county high schools have installed artificial turf in their stadiums and Marietta’s Athletic Director Paul Hall requested the same for Northcutt Stadium.

Board member Brett Bittner wasn’t so sure.

“It seems to be keeping up with the Joneses to me,” Bittner said.

Overall, board chairwoman Jill Mutimer said she thought the list, which she saw for the first time on Friday, was a reasonable starting point.

“I think there were some things on there that need to be tweaked,” Mutimer said. “There may be some things on there that need to be considered, but in general I think it was a good starting point, and I was pleased to see that the No. 1 priority is debt elimination, which we would have been able to do with this SPLOST if receipts had come in as they were projected originally, but they didn’t, and so if it passes I look forward to that as well as the capital items and renovations that need to be done.”

Lembeck said one point she wanted residents to know is that she takes a conservative, fiscally responsible approach to the system’s budget.

“Our budget was over $84 million in 2008 and we had 7,980 students,” Lembeck said. “Our budget for this year is $77.7 million and we already have over 8,400 students. It tells you that we really do try to manage our funds wisely and that we’re very aware of the economic situation and climate, and the SPLOST is a way for our community to have the schools and the services and the facilities that students need due to the help of the one percent sales tax.”
Comments
(6)
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MrReality
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September 11, 2012
Regardless of where the money comes from or what idealistic ideas people have for it, you can keep throwing money at crap and laying off teachers that are already underpaid and see what happens. Your children will be even -dumber- than a stump. I absolutely promise this.
hhteacher
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September 08, 2012
I will not vote for SPLOST until the money goes to the teachers!!!! I can teach without all this technology. Pay us what we deserve.
Marietta homeowner
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September 08, 2012
Love my city school system and board.
RTDrew
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September 08, 2012
Keeping up with the Joneses???? Are you kidding me? The field will pay for itself with-in ten years and the upkeep on it is far less expensive than a grass field. We cannot move forward if we keeping thinking in the past.
dustoff
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September 08, 2012
If you are having to rely on SPLOST money to maintain your budget, then you are not managing your funds wisely.

The BOE of both Cobb ans Marietta have gotten into the habit of relying on SPLOST to keep funding their system.

Its time to get real and learn to live with the school taxes they collect.

Turf Mom
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September 08, 2012
While the artificial turf does seem to be a luxury more than a necessity, I have a son who plays football and I really like the differences I've seen with the turf vs the grass. I definitely think it is safer as the kids will have a continual level playing field. There also is no grass/mud in my car and house now. Also - there is no maintainance (mowing). While I was very skeptical when Cobb County installed these, I am now very happy with the change.
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