Voters approved $773.3 million for Cobb and Marietta school districts to be raised through a 1-cent special sales tax between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2018.
“My cheeks are a little sore from smiling so much,” said John Loud, the co-chair of the pro-SPLOST group United 4 Kids, shortly after the tax got a large push from the “yes” votes.
There were a total of 40,565 votes cast in the single-issue election, and of those votes 23,248, or 57 percent, were in favor of the tax, while 17,317, or 43 percent, opposed it.
By approving the county’s fourth education SPLOST, Cobb will collect approximately $717.8 million, and Marietta $55.4 million.
“The voters came out today to show their support,” Loud said. “Maybe the project list isn’t 100 percent the best for everybody, but as you look at the picture as a whole, it’s the right direction for the kids, community, economy.”
Loud, along with about 75 other voters in support of the initiative, spent their election night at a party at Willie Rae’s on the Marietta Square watching the results roll in on their computers.
Another person who spent a portion of their evening waiting on the results to come in at a restaurant on the Square was Marietta City School Board Chair Randy Weiner.
“I’m very grateful to the voters of Marietta City that they saw the value and the need in this SPLOST,” he said. “I’m just very happy tonight!”
Scott Sweeney, the Cobb Schools board member who represents east Cobb, said “the kids won tonight” in response to the passage of the special tax.
“Again, the Cobb County voters got this right and decided to continue their support of the SPLOST initiative,” he said.
Sweeney thanked several groups and individuals for their support of the tax, including Cobb’s Parent Teacher Associations, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and others who formed their own pro-SPLOST campaigns.
“Their efforts are appreciated,” he said.
Vonda Shoemaker chairs the Walton High School Facilities Foundation, which is one of those organizations that pushed for passage of the initiative.
“I am thrilled for so many groups in Cobb County who will benefit from improved schools as a result of SPLOST IV, including our students, faculty members, parents and community partners,” she said.
Shoemaker said she also ws happy for the property owners, whom she believes will benefit from “high property values that tend to correlate with schools of excellence.”
Passage of SPLOST IV means Walton will eventually be rebuilt for a ticket price of about $40 million.
“Our youngest child is currently a junior and won’t be around to enjoy the improvements in Walton’s future, but it is a joy to have supported the referendum and know that the strong legacy of Walton and many other schools will continue because of today’s vote,” she said.
Not everyone was happy with the election’s outcome.
Lance Lamberton, a member of the Cobb Taxpayers Association who has been adamantly against passage of SPLOST IV since the board first discussed creation of the project list, said he “fully expected” the yes votes to win.
“We just didn’t know by how much we were going to lose,” he said.
He was pleased with the number of votes they picked up compared to the 2008 SPLOST III election, when around 5,000 fewer voters visited the polls.
“We think the grassroots effort … made a difference,” Lamberton said. “It was really like David and Goliath, especially if you compare resources.”
With his group had, Lamberton is hoping to build upon that foundation for the next time.
“I think our focus now is going to be changing the rules of how and when these elections are held,” he said. “We also want to look at the fractional SPLOST idea, no public moneys used to propagandize and election dates.”
He said that if those changes can be made, the actual components of future SPLOSTs will change.
By approving SPLOST IV, voters approved the Cobb County School District project list valued at $717.8 million. The list includes the rebuilding of Walton High School, two replacement elementary schools for $23.3 million each, a $29.8 million career academy, $29.9 million Osborne High School rebuild and an east Cobb area middle school replacement at a cost of $29.1 million.
Marietta City Schools’ $55.4 million list includes paying off $15.2 million in debt, $16 million in technology upgrades, $20 million toward construction, modifications, renovations and equipment and $2 million for transportation.