For budget-strapped Cobb schools, Braves’ move is an upper-deck homer
by James Wilson
November 23, 2013 11:55 PM | 3091 views | 7 7 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
During its work session this past week, the Cobb County Board of Education discussed another year of revenue shortfalls.

Each year they secure a waiver from the state allowing the district to exceed state class size maximums. Reducing teachers, increasing class sizes and reducing services have helped balance budgets. And lately, the need to change the instructional delivery model for most high schools has been discussed.

The board has even discussed changing from (SACS) Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to a lesser-recognized agency within the state that supports Clayton County and a portion of Atlanta Public Schools.

It is a clear get-what-you-pay-for-concept. The parent company for SACS is AdvancEd, serving 37 of the 50 states, as well as schools and school districts all over the world.

Cobb children deserve to be recognized for the quality of education they receive in Cobb County. The reputation of SACS plays a vital role when applying for college and university admissions.

There are a variety of reasons why Cobb has this revenue dilemma while attempting to serve 109,806 students.

The tax revenue in Cobb is being reduced in a variety of ways different from many other counties across our state. First, the local 5-mill adjustment subtracts more than $131 million from earned tax revenue this year alone, distributing these funds across the state to other less fortunate school districts.

Second, like other school districts, Cobb receives education funding from the state. But, state austerity cuts now amount to approximately $75 million a year for Cobb Schools.

Third, Cobb’s tax-paying citizens aren’t getting any younger. Citizens age 62 and older are exempt from all school taxes regardless of income. This reduction in potential revenues amounts to more than $63 million each year.

These three issues alone amount to a yearly loss in school district revenue of more than $270 million dollars. If you choose to magnify this over the previous five years, it is an estimated $1 billion of lost revenue that truly belongs in Cobb County and for Cobb County Schools. I use the five year estimate to illustrate how these dollars add up in a short time — but remember, some of these issues have been in existence for more than 20 years.

So it’s no wonder that every year the Cobb County School Board faces the very difficult discussions of reducing teachers, increasing class size and the loss of programs and services. Most observers believe there appears to be no end in sight.

We need a game-saving home run that will help stabilize the decline in school revenue and the quality of education we expect our 109,806 children to receive.

We need a big, big economic development boost — one that will bring needed investment into our county, as well as jobs.

The Braves’ investment in a new stadium in Cobb is a home run in the upper deck for education. It will result in: a $672 million stadium, $400 million mixed-use development, $235 million in construction payrolls, and a permanent operational payroll of $35 million. And a prediction from economist Alan Wexler, CEO of Data Bank, Inc., that property values around the new stadium could double.

Doubling means improved revenue for our schools. Continuing to use the term “doubling” is exactly what Cobb County needs, especially the Cobb County School District. I have chosen to focus on what the Braves in Cobb County can do for the school district.

It is somewhat common for tax revenue received in one location to be distributed around the state for the benefit of all. It is just not common for that redistribution to come back to Cobb County.

With the potential of a big new investment in our county, we finally have an opportunity to see additional revenue coming our way.

Sometimes leaders take short-term, even personal, risks for the good of the team and community. When you think about it, that’s what leaders are supposed to do: Lead, not follow.

For the benefit of the 109,806 children attending Cobb schools, we owe thanks to the Cobb citizens and community leaders who have been involved in bringing the Braves to Cobb County.

They probably didn’t know it when they were at the plate, but they just happened to hit it out of the park — for our kids.

James Wilson of Marietta is a retired superintendent of the Cobb and Fulton County school districts.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Reality Check
November 25, 2013
Wrong Mr. Superintendent. This stadium will be OWNED by a government entity, not the Braves. No school tax dollars for you!

If Cobb folks cared about their school system, they would support a school SPLOST instead of this Obamination of a tax hike. Makes sense because even old folks have to pay in.

The stadium traffic, BTW, will keep you waiting long enough that you'll be able to shop for Obamacare on your phone. Don't say you weren't warned, but don't expect a big investigative piece on it.
@ Reality Check
November 25, 2013
It's you who needs a Reality Check. The stadium is only a portion of the project. The balance of the deal will include retail, restaurant, bars and condos each of which will be subject to school property tax.

The vacant land throws off less than $200,000 in school property tax today. Estimates have targeted approximately $3,000,000 in school property taxes once the project is fully developed.

Reality Check - That is a 1400% increase in school property tax. It doesn't come close to closing an $80,000,000 projected budget shortfall, yet it clearly is a step in the right direction.
Guido Sarducci
November 27, 2013
To @ Reality Check. why don;t you check with the folks in Gwinnett about the promises made to them when the built the Gwinnett Braves stadium? See how much of the promised retail, entertainment etc was actually done?

Don't you recognize "bait" when you see it. The Braves are promising all this development in order to induce support. There is nothing in the MOU to force them to do that.
November 25, 2013
100 students per class.... is a good number!
November 24, 2013
If what this columnist is saying is indeed true, then I am all FOR it! Our school district has been cutting $80 million (more or less) each year for the past 6 years. Our kids deserve better. Our teachers deserve better. Our community deserves better. If some of these funds from having the Braves here in Cobb get funneled to education - then I say BRING IT ON.
November 24, 2013
If the MDJ thinks James Wilson is a creditable spokesperson with the school going public then the MDJ has lost its way.
November 25, 2013
James Wilson has an impeccable reputation. Those who are actually smart and well read and truly care about education understand what he's saying. I'm appreciative that the MDJ allows columnists such as Mr. Wilson the chance to be heard. His column has convinced me even more that this is a good thing for Cobb County and will help the CCSD.
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