Well, they’ve built a lot of hugely expensive projects, like the more than $14 million Lassiter High School performing arts center. And then there has been spending on a multitude of lower-profile projects, like artificial turf for practice fields, or granite counter-tops for what were otherwise perfectly good and serviceable concession stands.
In this SPLOST, there is three times as much spending allocated to sports, entertainment and recreation than there is for education. The project list also calls for expanding infrastructure when they can’t even afford to maintain what they already have.
Take, for example, their $30 million Career Academy. They don’t know where it will be located, how much the land will cost, who can attend or how they will get students there, and they have no budget for teachers, administration and maintenance.
Meanwhile, after spending over $2 billion in the past 15 years, we still have leaking roofs, pre-fab buildings throughout the district and safety issues that need to be addressed. Could it be that they are deliberately skewing their spending priorities so they will always have a justification for a continuous SPLOST?
At same time, advocates love to threaten us if they don’t get their way. In one of their ads they say “property taxes would have to be raised to pay for a bond” if we don’t pass this SPLOST. This is exactly what they said about the 2011 County SPLOST. Their slogan was: “Keep property taxes low. Vote YES.” Then five months later, they raised property taxes anyway. Moreover, in their lust for more tax revenue, they’ve managed to almost max out the legally permitted property tax millage rate, so there isn’t much room to raise it even further.
Besides, if they put a bond on the ballot, it still has to pass muster with the voters. And with bonds, there is transparency that doesn’t exist with the vague promises in this SPLOST of what they might ultimately end up doing with the money, like with the Career Academy or which schools they plan to replace and where the new ones might be located. They keep us in the dark like mushrooms in the name of flexibility, but I’ll take accountability and transparency over flexibility anytime.
And threatening us with tax increases if they don’t get their way resembles the behavior of a petulant child who says if you don’t play ball the way I want and according to my rules, then I’m taking away the ball. Problem is, it’s not their ball! That ball belongs to we the taxpayers, and we have a golden opportunity to take it back today.
If there is any doubt as to how far they will try to go if they don’t get their way, consider this: Not only will they try to pass massive bonds to pay for every wasteful project in this SPLOST, but some are calling for a permanent 1 percent sales tax in Cobb above and beyond this SPLOST.
And for you seniors, hold on to your wallets. In a recent Internet post, one supporter warned: “For our senior community that does not pay school property taxes, your exemptions will be the next on the block.” (emphasis mine)
Personally, I like the butcher metaphor, because it makes it clear how they really regard the taxpayer. What they seem to forget is that they work for us, and if they are not responsible with the money we give them, then it’s time for them to go back to the drawing board and give us a SPLOST that offers good value for our money.
Defeating this SPLOST would be a wake-up-call to the school board, letting them know that you are the boss, and that until they understand that, their SPLOST will receive a vote of NO confidence. All that it takes is for 50 percent of you plus one to just say NO.
Lance Lamberton is the president and founder of the Cobb Taxpayers Association.