“They’re up here all the time, meeting with staff members, so I know they’re making some progress, but it’s a big task,” Hinojosa said Thursday.
The Cobb County School Board approved a $75,000 contract with Education Planners LLC of Marietta in mid-May. The organization, led by former Cobb interim superintendent James Wilson, will draft a list of projects that, if the board approves, would go into the SPLOST IV notebook that is expected to go before voters March 2013.
Wilson learned on May 17 that his organization has until August to boil $1.5 billion worth of technology, athletic, maintenance and transportation needs down to a $600 million list of projects.
Prior SPLOST notebooks were created in 18 months, but Wilson said he isn’t worried about the deadline.
“We’re right on schedule,” he said. “The first month of June, we basically worked on the database, met with key Cobb County staff, made sure we were compiling all the data that was available to us, worked on cost estimates and are just making sure that everything that has been identified as a need is secured in the database.”
He and co-worker Bob Flowers, who previously worked in the facilities departments at the Fulton and Bibb school districts, met with Deputy Superintendent of Operations Chris Ragsdale and acting SPLOST administrator Glen Brown on Wednesday.
“We asked Ragsdale to really take a look to make sure we have been able to retrieve everything that we need,” Wilson said. “It was an opportunity for them to critique where we were at this stage.”
Ragsdale said his SPLOST and technology groups have been creating the database that will store and itemize the project list.
“Once we get that into the database, then we’ll have to (review) the data for duplications and then go in and start looking at the priorities,” he said.
Ragsdale said he has not yet asked principals what their schools need.
“Within the last month, we will get with the principals,” Ragsdale said. “In the past, a great deal of time was taken in the third-party vendor meetings with principals and taking a lot of input and culling that into the database. We’ll have to do that in a different manner.”
Despite the tight deadline, which several school board members expressed concerns about when they first directed district staff to start working on a SPLOST IV list, Ragsdale said he doesn’t feel rushed.
“It’s flowing at the pace we need it to right now,” he said.
Hinojosa, Ragsdale and school board members declined to say what they would like to see in SPLOST IV but agreed that the list should be based on the needs, not wants, of the district.
“I don’t really have a wish list because we have so many needs, but I’m really interested in those career academies,” Hinojosa said.
Because Ragsdale works mostly with the district’s operations, his priority is to ensure everything is running efficiently, he said.
“When you don’t address the equipment needs and maintenance of those … the operations suffers,” he said.
Similar to Hinojosa and Ragsdale, board members see this SPLOST initiative as a needs-only project.
“My wish for SPLOST IV is that we use the monies to maintain our facilities and upgrade the facilities that are below standards,” said Alison Bartlett, who represents central Cobb.
Lynnda Eagle, who serves northwest Cobb, said she’s still waiting to see what the schools and area assistant superintendents need before she decides what she’d like to see on the list.
“I have not had anyone from any of the current Post 1 schools tell me any specific needs, but I expect we will be having lots of conversations soon,” she said.
Tim Stultz, who represents southeast Cobb, said he’d like for the district to look into overcrowding issues, specifically in south Smyrna area elementary schools.
“An addition at Teasley (Elementary) would help solve this,” he said. “We also have some very old buildings in the southern part of the county that are falling below the standards for the rest of Cobb.”
Education Planners are only developing the project list and will not be managing the SPLOST if voters approve the 1 percent sales tax.
This is the fourth SPLOST referendum the school district has developed. In SPLOST III, which ends Dec. 31, 2013, the district is expected to collect approximately $600 million over a five-year time period.
If approved in March 2013, SPLOST IV collections would begin Jan. 1, 2014, and run through Dec. 31, 2018. The district expects to collect a similar amount to SPLOST III.