School board still split on tax measure
by Hannah Morgan
October 18, 2013 12:27 AM | 2306 views | 8 8 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Cobb Board of Education member David Banks asked the board to sign off on proposed legislation last week that could lead to amending the state Constitution to allow Georgia’s counties to tax themselves and collect extra money for schools.

Banks pushed for the approval to give permission for the board chair to sign a resolution that would be sent to the Georgia Association of Educators, assuring it of the board’s endorsement of the tax proposal.

The proposed 1-cent tax, called a Local Education Sales Tax, or LEST, would allow communities to raise their sales tax rate.

Banks introduced the legislation at the board’s Oct. 9 meeting, but not all board members are keen to sign their names to the legislation.

After a heated debate, where board members were split on their support for the measure, Chairman Randy Scamihorn asked Banks to rewrite the letter and send it back to board members with a bit more clarity.

“After reading this a couple of times, I believe it needs to be redrafted. It’s not clear what we are asking for in the letter. It’s just absolutely not clear,” Scamihorn said.

Banks agreed, and sent out a revised letter to board members this week that included, “the major provisions of the legislation, and why we are in this position to begin with.”

Banks is concerned about the lack of funding the school board has in its budget this year, which he said is expected to fall about $80 million short this year.

“The only alternative you got is to raise classroom sizes or cut teachers and we don’t have to if the legislators will do this,” he said.

Not all of his fellow board members seemed to agree, however.

“I’m not going to support it,” said board member Kathleen Angelucci.

Board member Tim Stultz echoed her belief.

“I do not believe that we need to be taking any more money out of taxpayer’s pockets to pay for more taxes,” he said.

Banks has been adamant that the proposed legislation would not signify a tax increase, because it is just a piece of legislation, he said. However, if the legislation is taken up by state legislators, who then approve to amend the state Constitution, the LEST tax could become reality to Cobb County residents in the form of a tax.

To become law in Cobb County, the legislation would first have to be brought up in the State House of Representatives, and then approved by a two-thirds majority of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, according to state law. Then, the residents of Georgia would have to approve the Constitution being amended. If the state votes to approve the measure, then individual county school boards would have the option to hold a county-wide referendum to approve adopting the additional 1-cent tax.

As of Thursday afternoon, a revised copy of Banks’ proposed letter was delivered to school board members that asked them to vote to adopt a resolution at its next meeting that read:

“Be it resolved that: The Cobb County Board of Education supports, as an alternative to supplement declining revenues to adequately fund school systems in maintaining ‘Quality Education,’ a proposed Amendment to the Constitution of the State of Georgia which would authorize a local School Board of Education, subject to a requirement of referendum and voter approval, to impose an additional 1 percent sales tax for a limited period of time, to be used solely for the support and maintenance of public schools and to mandate on counties with populations greater than 50,000 school property tax relief equaling 30 percent of LEST proceeds collected annually.”

Board members will be asked to vote on authorizing Scamihorn to sign off on the resolution at their next meeting, Thursday, Oct. 24, Banks said.

Scamihorn said he was unclear if, regardless of what the board decides, the members who are opposed to the resolution might have a space to show that opposition in the letter being sent to GAE.

Cobb County Superintendent Michael Hinojosa has already supported the idea, Banks said, and is expected to sign off on the resolution regardless of the board’s decision.

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Lucy R. Williams
October 29, 2013
If I recall correctly, hasn't Banks in the past said that there's a "mountain of gold" in the school district's reserves? And if that is the case, why does the school district need more money? They just need to learn to work within their means just like any other organization. Let's not follow the likes of other school districts - or even our Federal Government - that can't learn to live within its means.
Cobb Resident
October 18, 2013
Once again, Mr. Stultz and Ms. Angelucci show that they are not on the board to serve student needs. Rather, it appears to be about keeping businesses happy. I'm sorry folks, but your position on the board should not be political. All board positions should be neutral, with decisions and votes based on issues, as they arise. It is sad that members of the board continually refer to business and not to students. Doesn't that say everything about their agenda for serving on the board?
Jane W.
October 18, 2013
The proposal is anyway just a publicity gimmick for the teachers' union, with no chance of passing the legislature. So why waste School Board time on it?

Want to help kids? Approve more charter schools and work toward instituting tuition vouchers that parents can use in the public or private school of their choice.
October 18, 2013
Jane W, Will you please let us know which union it is that you speak of? Your very statement that there is a union tells all knowledgeable readers that you really know nothing of which you speak. Keep trying.
CC Resident
October 18, 2013
Why would you not want what is better for our schools. The better the schools the better our property values. Right now we have so many moving out of Cobb to the North Paulding, Cherokee, and Cartersville areas. The home values are not increasing because the schools are losing their appeal. If we have great schools in Cobb then the value of our homes will increse. Great teachers are leaving Cobb and many more will follow if we don't take care of them. They have had paycuts for at least five years. Class sizes continue to grow and it is fact that discipline in large class sizes are a distraction to learning.
October 18, 2013
Leave it to Mr. Banks to draft something like this when he is exempt from even paying the school taxes in Cobb because he is a senior citizen. Thank goodness for Angelucci and Stulz who seem to be the only board members with common sense. We taxpayers are tired of paying for the school boards mismanagement of dollars. Enough is enough.
Cobb Mom of 2
October 18, 2013
If you had bothered to read the details you would have realized that it is a sales tax and therefore Mr. Banks would be subject to the tax anytime he bought something in Cobb County. I have one child left in Cobb County schools, if something other than cutting teachers or increasing class sizes isn't done to aleviate the problem then my one child will leave the system at the end of this school year.
Come On Randy
October 18, 2013
Scamihorn knows he's a swing vote. Yet is playing coy to placate the tea party friends who thwarted the math textbook adoption.

He either supports the concept of letting voters decide to support public education, or he doesn't.

It's not that complicated.

Teachers and students' parents are watching closely.

Seemingly, he's willing to work with people, yet is offering no solutions to close a projected $80 million budget shortfall leading to fewer teachers, greater classroom sizes and more furlough days. He can't lean on the piggy bank because he already broke it wide open.

Here's a tip Mr. Chairman - work with Banks on a draft letter or resolution that is acceptable to you that moves the ball forward.

Alternatively, stick your head in the sand and pretend that this horrible budget situation will correct itself.

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