Cobb whittles SPLOST IV list down to $717M
by Lindsay Field
September 13, 2012 12:56 AM | 3696 views | 21 21 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The Cobb School District would use the money it would collect in a potential SPLOST IV to build two career academies, replace Osborne High School, and build three new elementary school buildings, according to a project list presented to the school board during Wednesday’s work session.

During the hour-long discussion, the board learned more about the costs of the two recommended career academies, which would be about $29.8 million each; a $29.9 million replacement school for Osborne High; and the possibility of opening three elementary schools for $23.3 million each to replace six current schools.

The career academies would be located in north and south Cobb, and Education Planners, who created the notebook, has recommended that the district build an elementary school to replace Brumby; a second to replace and combine Milford, LaBelle and Belmont Hills; and a third to replace and combine Powers Ferry, Sedalia Park and Eastvalley.

The 220-page project notebook also included details about addition and modification costs at 11 schools, which comes in at about $122.3 million; infrastructure and individual school needs, $176.1 million; security and transportation, $99.3 million; and technology, $150.6 million.

* Additions and modifications include new gymnasiums, theaters, orchestra and choral rooms, and replacing temporary building for Campbell, Harrison, Lassiter, North Cobb, Pope, Walton, South Cobb and Wheeler high schools and Mount Bethel, Sope Creek and Tritt elementary schools.

* Infrastructure and individual school needs include replacing doors, windows and hardware, electrical work, furnishings and bringing athletic facilities up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

* Security and transportation expenses include buses, vehicles and equipment purchases, food services upgrades, surveillance cameras and textbooks.

* Under technology, the board is looking at replacing obsolete computers, music instruments and classroom informational systems.

The bulk of the notebook, 169 pages, consists of lists of individual school projects submitted by the district.

“We have taken $2 billion worth of needs down to … $717 million,” Deputy Superintendent of Operations Chris Ragsdale said. “We had to make a lot of dramatic and drastic cuts, but we are confident that the notebook is data-driven and based on needs.”

James Wilson with Education Planners Inc. of Marietta said he developed the notebook based on feedback from the district staff and employees about the list of needs.

“We have been diligent to prioritize and spend money wisely,” Wilson told the board Wednesday. “We have worked from the top down to get the available needs. It’s important that we do this SPLOST correctly.”

Board Chair Scott Sweeney reminded the board that “this is truly a draft at this point. (The notebook) will evolve as we get community feedback.”

The board also considered and ultimately rejected a request from member Tim Stultz to include the two charter schools in the SPLOST IV notebook.

Stultz said a member of the International Academy of Smyrna asked if the district would include adding their needs list to the referendum, and their list, along with Kennesaw Charter’s, was emailed to Ragsdale.

Ragsdale said Smyrna’s list included a gymnasium, an auditorium, construction and a cafeteria. Kennesaw’s included outdoor surveillance cameras and whiteboards.

“We can’t maintain what we have, and I can’t see us funding a charter school outside of public funding,” member Alison Bartlett said.

Kathleen Angelucci said she couldn’t support using SPLOST IV funds for a building that does not belong to the district.

Lynnda Eagle said funding charter schools would fundamentally alter the system.

“We would have to change how someone applies for a charter,” Lynnda Eagle said. “This would negate the original charter, I believe.”

The full notebook of projects has been posted on the district’s website. The board is expected to vote on the notebook of projects in November or December, and residents will vote on the sale tax in March 2013.

The most recent SPLOST, which was approved in September 2008, will run through Dec. 31, 2013. If voters approve SPLOST IV, it would begin Jan. 1, 2014, and run through Dec. 31, 2018.
Comments
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anonymous
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September 18, 2012
I challenge everyone to grab a camera and start taking pictures of what I have seen thrown outside in the rain behind some of the schools. I see furniture, technology and other items just thrown out to ruin. Or let's see how many laptops have been bought vs how many teachers there are to see if the numbers add up. Let's get that in everyone's face and see if they want to vote for more!
dustoff
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September 14, 2012
It will be a cold day when I vote yes for any additional taxes especially those that build huge buildings that are not needed for actual education.

Mke in Kennesaw
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September 17, 2012
How can they justify $19.5 million for a gym/theatre, and then spend only $4 million more for an entire Elementary School. What's wrong with that picture other than wasting more taxpayer dollars?
Why consolidation
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September 13, 2012
I am totally confused on why you would close Powers Ferry, Eastvalley, and Sedalia Park to consolidate those schools? That will be an elementary school with 1600 students. You will have the cost of purchasing property and then have three empty buildings. Sedalia Park had a new addition not very long ago. This is a waste of money. I would love to see the reaction of Eastvalley parents to see their children integrated with two Title I schools.
mk-Agenda 21
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September 14, 2012
Smyrna is the guinea pig for this new 'Agenda 21' style elementary. It is a huge mistake. The 22 million dollar mega elementary being built on the defunct Belmont Hills property , looks like a steel mill or some type of parts factory. It will be very foreboding & unfriendly to the small children. What better way to control young minds.

This ensures no Safe Routes to School program for Smyrna, the school is far away from most neighborhoods. There will be less children walking, biking and less neighborhood & community interaction. There WILL be more traffic, more busses and more obese, unhealthy kids.

The heavily supported, smaller Buckhead, Sandy Springs and Decatur schools are turning out healthy, artistic & above average children as well as very sought after real estate values in best school districts.

Why can't Cobb's leaders try to be more like the winners,.. instead of continually taking Cobb backwards?

Dave G
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September 13, 2012
I am voting no. Budget accordingly with what you are already getting from property owners. "Living within our means", is what you expect of the citizens you are requesting the funding from. We expect no less from you.
Wants vs. Needs
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September 13, 2012
Amazing the school district is $60m in the red, cutting teachers, increasing class size and this the list of items they want taxpayers to support? It is obvious they feel taxpayers are not paying attention and will spend OUR money as they please. This is not a "needs" list but a "wants" list. They need to learn to live within their means, not asking taxpayers to give them more money.

Two new career academic schools when we have schools that could be used. If this is the list present in November, I will be voting NO and hope more Cobb taxpayers will do the same
Maatf
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September 13, 2012
I am a big believer in keeping up with maintenance on public property, especially schools. So I generally support the school SPLOST.

But, why are all those gyms suddenly needing maintenance and do we need all those theaters? This list needs some explaining.
The details
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September 13, 2012
I can only speak to my son's school, Campbell. The gyms at that school are ancient--ones with permanent, concrete seating for less than 2000 people. With a student body closer to 2500, they can't have a normal school event that will house everyone. These were built when one half of the school was a middle school, so the scale is smaller all the way around. I agree that they need to spend wisely where it's needed, but I can tell you that this school needs a real gym. When we play basketball at other schools, it's defeating to see the facilities so impressive and new while CHS students remain in the 1970's with their gym.

I expect many of the projects reflect the same need--more students in a school require larger gyms and theaters so events can house all of the students.
Dear Just Wait
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September 13, 2012
Why so bitter? A school system can live within its means when revenue is at a normal pace. With declining property tax revenue, there has to be another way to fund projects, and a SPLOST (shared by all citizens, visitors, and anyone else) is the simplest way to funnel money that is sorely needed to the school system. You may not agree with the choices they make, but to simply dismiss the need is a little silly.
Just Wait
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September 14, 2012
The SPLOST for the schools was voted in long before the housing bubble burst and tax revenue declined. They have now become accustom to the money being a part of their regular budget. It doesn't matter who is paying the tax, it is money from a "special" tax. The BOE no longer considers it special and has moved it into a permanent status. They just assume that the citizens of Cobb County will continue to approve it. That is why I am bitter.
Misunderstanding
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September 13, 2012
I think some people misunderstand SPLOST. This isn't an increase in taxes; it's a continuation of a tax that already exists.

In addition, without SPLOST there is not enough revenue (due to lower property taxes) to fund capital outlay projects--new schools, buildings, etc. Before using SPLOST, the district went the bond route, basically creating long-term debt for the schools.

I know most people don't like taxes, and I understand that. However, if you need capital improvements, the money comes from somewhere. If you choose bonds, they will be scarificing money later to pay off that debt. With a SPLOST, the projects are funding with no impact on the instructional budget.

The bottom line is that the students do need new facilities in some of these places. To say "no" at this point is to deny some kids the chance that others already have, and that's inquity. I encourage people to get past the emotion of the situation and think logically.
anonymous
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September 13, 2012
What is "inquity"?????
we get it!
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September 14, 2012
I don't understand you! People are without jobs, barely making ends meets. Some have been without raises in years. If we eliminate this tax - we all get a raise.

Many people are not doing repairs to their homes, taking in boarders to make the mortgage and walking away from their homes and you say our students deserve a better theater? Something that isn't used every day of the year to the fullest capacity? Are these have to haves, or nice to haves.

We are down to the HAVE TO HAVE stage - and NOTHING on that list is a must.

Mom of Two
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September 13, 2012
They've been promising to replace temp classrooms each SPLOST. It is time to vote NO to SPLOST.
anonymous
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September 13, 2012
Substantial numbers of temp classroom (ie. trailers) have been eliminated. You're getting ready to see a huge number of trailers,easily more than 35, be eliminated at Wheeler when the new school opens next year.

Trailers were also eliminated at Sope Creek with the recent expansion there.

Harrison HS has a bunch of trailers that will be eliminated when their construction is completed.
Just Wait
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September 13, 2012
Dear Cobb BOE, I can only assume you have forgotten the recent vote for the TSPOST. You seem to believe that a continuation of this "special" tax is a foregone conclusion. How many continuations are required before it is no longer "special?" Of course, you will pull out your tired "it's for the kids" slogan, but I will not vote for it. You need to learn to live within your means.
anonymous
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September 13, 2012
It's only called Special because that's what Georgia's constitution calls it - A "Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax"
vtgrad
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September 13, 2012
We do not need to build two new career academies when we can use existing infrastructures and modify them. Also, this will be a tough sell to voters... we are tired of being taxed to the hilt. Good luck with Splost.
PostGrad
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September 13, 2012
I know that I'm voting "NO!"
anonymous
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September 13, 2012
I agree that existing schools should be converted to the career academies and that there is no need for new buildings. I'm really surprised that the career path classes have apparently been almost or completely dropped from the school system. It should not be expected that every student wants to go to college. School systems should provide an education for real life after graduation and that includes those who want to go into the workforce and not college. One does not need to go to college to be successful just as many who do go to college are not successful.
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