Time for taxpayers to send another SPLOST lesson
by Pete Borden
Columnist
November 06, 2012 12:41 AM | 1066 views | 3 3 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When you read another of my columns, the election will be over and we will have selected a president for the next fours years. Let’s hope there are not too many broken relationships or spoiled friendships as a result of the bitterness which accompanied the election campaigning.

Regardless of your choice, please do not fail to vote. Countless lives have been given and countless gallons of blood shed to assure you of the right. Don’t let them have suffered and died in vain.

Back in July, Gov. Nathan Deal, the Atlanta Regional Commission and Cobb County Commission Chairman, Tim Lee, were the recipients of an eye-opening lesson. They learned, the hard way, that the taxpayers will only stand still for being bled for so long. At some point they will say, in a very loud voice, “NO MORE!” The TSPLOST referendum was handily defeated.

The people were not against a regional transportation plan to solve the mounting transportation problems in this area. They just recognized that the proposed plan would not accomplish that. So, they sent the planners back to work on a real plan to solve real problems in a realistic and economical manner.

It may well be that the time has come for the Cobb County School Board to learn the same lesson. The board is currently preparing the SPLOST IV notebook. It is their plan to sell the taxpayers on continuing the 1 percent sales tax for another five years, bringing to a total of 20 the number of years that such revenue has been available for their use.

It all started in 1998, with the school board successfully selling the taxpayers on the idea of giving them the dollars to replace the mobile classrooms (trailers) with real classrooms in real buildings. It sounded like a good idea. The only problem is that, at the end of the five years, we had the same number of trailers, around 700, give or take a few, that we had when it started, and many of them were five years older. Naturally, the cry became, “Give us another five years and this time we promise to get rid of the trailers.”

We are about to wind down our fourteenth year under the Special Purpose sales tax, and, though they have been reduced in number quite a bit, we still have trailers. We have spent over $1.5 billion yet we still have trailers and we still say we need classrooms and school buildings. Where did the money go? We built some schools, added onto some schools and remodeled some schools. Did we spend $1.5 billion doing that? We did not, not by a long shot.

Members of the Facilities and Technology committee have already questioned the legality of a large portion for the projects on the SPLOST IV list, and with good reason. Those fall under maintenance and upkeep, a purpose for which SPLOST was never intended. This appears to be a backdoor way to free regular funds for other uses. But, let’s be honest and call it what it is. Subterfuge comes to mind.

We do not elect school board members to increase our taxes. We elect them to run our schools on the amount of money available. I don’t know about them, but most people do not have the luxury of demanding money from another source, when they have not properly managed what they were given.

Additionally, members of the same F&T Committee, including a former chairman of the school board, have indicated that they would withhold information from the taxpayers in an effort to affect the outcome of the vote. They said they do not want to furnish information which would include a breakdown of how much each school would benefit from the SPLOST funds.

I don’t blame them. In the time I have spent looking at the SPLOST IV notebook, I don’t like what I see. It appears to be a compilation of “It sure would be nice if we had this.” Numerous non-academic facilities dot the list. Most disturbing is the number of “plugs” for new and replacement schools, sans location.

I think if the voters demand full disclosure, in an easily understood format instead of a notebook consisting of 155 pages, many of which contain less than a dozen lines, they will send the authors of this SPLOST proposal scurrying back to the drawing board with their tails tucked between their legs.

That would be appropriate.

Pete Borden is a retired masonry contractor in east Cobb.

Comments
(3)
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Banksisadufus
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November 11, 2012
Yeah, and while David Banks whines about wanting to be involved in the naming of the Lassiter theatre, and suggests that it was built for the intended use of being a regional theatre with other schools being able to use it... we now are seeing proposals for other multi-million dollar theatres being built at other schools.. Which is it Mr. Banks? Wasn't the LHS theatre proposed and didnt it pass based on that? Why are you so interested in naming the theatre? Dont you have more important things to do? (oh guess not, it just wouldn't be like you not to show up at faculty meetings etc. trying to push your slack agenda) because you certainly aren't listened to by your fellow board members. The Splost will not pass as long as the board continues to spend willy nilly. People are smarter now, and you can bet they will be watching their pennies even more closely now that Obummer has been elected.
Really !!
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November 09, 2012
Pete, this has not been an issue of properly handling the monies of the taxpayers. Instead it has been the cuts which the district has endured over the years. In addition to the 100 million dollars the county is required to ship out to other school districts every year.

Again, $1,000,000 each year.
@ Pete
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November 06, 2012
Pete: It started long before 1998 - Capital funding of some sort (bonds or SPLOST) has been in place as long as the school system is old.

You failed to mention Cobb did a fair amount of bond financing prior to SPLOST which placed us all in debt and also increased property taxes.

From '98 through '07 - Cobb residents were paying off bond debt and paying SPLOST simultaneously.

Civic minded as you are, you know voters, not the board, decide if they will permit any "sales tax" to be levied. It's not the board of education's, nor the Cobb Commission's, nor a regional transit governance panel's authority to do so.
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