“We would love to be able to support an education SPLOST, but we feel that with this one, there’s just too many questions,” said Tom Maloy with the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and board members Scott Sweeney and David Banks met with Maloy and J.D. Van Brink with the Georgia Tea Party and David Staples with the Cobb County Taxpayers Association to discuss objections the two groups have with the 1 percent, five-year sales tax, which is set to go before voters in March.
While the two sides say the meeting was cordial and informative, it did little to change the opposition’s minds.
“I still can’t vote for it at this point,” Staples said Wednesday. Maloy and Lamberton believe the vote should be held on a general election ballot and don’t think a $29.9 million career academy is necessary when many of the same programs are offered in existing high schools.
Staples would have liked the referendum to be on this past November’s ballot when Cobb recorded some of its highest turnout numbers. It would also save the $300,000 cost of a special election.
“We had such a large group showing up at the polls, that would have been an excellent time,” he said.
Maloy said building a career academy rather than hosting the programs at existing schools would put a strain on the already-low general fund, which pays salaries.
“We don’t really need an infrastructure that we can’t maintain, that will drain money from things that we really need like good teachers and maintain structures we currently have,” he said. “If SPLOST draws that away, then we’ll be defeating the purpose of education.”
Hinojosa, who is meeting with district staff on SPLOST IV today, said he thought the meeting went well.
“I know they felt better when they walked away,” he said. “I think they also felt better that they have an open line of communication … I offered to have another meeting with them. They didn’t say they would support (SPLOST IV), but felt better.”
Hinojosa said he would like to have support from both organizations, but couldn’t say if the tax would fail otherwise.
“We can’t worry about things we can’t control,” Hinojosa said. “We just have to get as much information out there as we can.”
Maloy said he’ll go back to the Georgia Tea Party board and talk to them about what he learned at the meeting.
“To be honest, I still think there’s a very strong chance that it will fail,” he said. “I’m not saying that the Georgia Tea Party is going to make it fail. I think it would have a much better chance of passing if the Georgia Tea Party supported it — but if we supported it, it would have to be a much better notebook and a lot of our objections will be overcome.”
“I don’t think these issues are just Georgia Tea Party issues but issues most of the public, if they’re paying attention, will probably object to as well.”