Schools close to asking for SPLOST IV
by Lindsay Field
August 21, 2012 12:13 AM | 5125 views | 57 57 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students assemble Monday for a class at Powers Ferry Elementary School. The school is among several in the Cobb School District being eyed for either rebuilding or consolidation if a new SPLOST is passed in March of next year.<br>Staff/Todd Hull
Students assemble Monday for a class at Powers Ferry Elementary School. The school is among several in the Cobb School District being eyed for either rebuilding or consolidation if a new SPLOST is passed in March of next year.
Staff/Todd Hull
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MARIETTA — There is more than a year left for collections of the education SPLOST, but both Cobb and Marietta City school districts are well on their way to asking voters for a fourth installment of the sales tax.

Officials and consultants to Cobb’s district are eyeing a public referendum next March 19. Janine Eveler, director of Cobb Elections, said that would be the only question on the ballot for that day.

“I’m not sure if being the lone item on the ballot will present an advantage either way, but it should mean that those who turn out to vote are well-informed about the issue, and I think that’s a good thing,” Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said.

Voters countywide will likely be asked to extend the 1 percent sales tax for five more years, beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Former superintendent James Wilson, whose firm is drafting a project list for Cobb Schools, estimates the tax would bring in $717 million over the five years for Cobb Schools.

Staff at Marietta City Schools are drafting that district’s project list, which they plan to present to the board during a retreat on Sept. 7, but Superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck said eliminating the district’s $15.6 million in long-term debt and the Marietta High auditorium debt would be at the top of the list.

Hinojosa acknowledged there is a risk of “SPLOST fatigue” among voters, given that a March vote would come just eight months after the regional TSPLOST vote, which went down in flames.

But, “the Education SPLOST has an established track record that is familiar to most Cobb County parents and taxpayers, and the projects it has funded are visible at 120 school district facilities around the county,” he said. “By March, voters should be very clear on what the education SPLOST is all about and the types of capital projects it supports.”

Hinojosa said his board would vote in November or December to call for a public referendum in March.

Districts now may only hold SPLOST referendums on regularly-scheduled election days, of which there are two in 2013: in March or November. A November 2013 referendum, though, would cause a gap in collections.

County voters last approved a SPLOST for Cobb’s two districts in a special election in September 2008, where it passed by 61 percent of the vote. Turnout was only about 10 percent. It was originally projected to bring in about $857 million over the five years but was later lowered to $659 million.

Wilson, whose Education Planners Inc. firm was paid $75,000 to create Cobb’s proposed SPLOST IV project list, presented a draft project list to the school board on Aug. 8.

Cobb’s projects include building two career academies at a cost of $33 million each, one in south Cobb and the other in north; building a new, $29 million Osborne High School to replace the existing school; and consolidating or rebuilding eight 1950s-era elementary schools: Belmont Hills, Eastvalley, Harmony Leland, LaBelle, Milford, Powers Ferry, Sedalia Park and Brumby.

Cobb also wants to replace theaters, gymnasiums, or both, at five high schools; and replace “temporary” buildings at six more schools.

The theater and gym rebuilds would be at Harrison and Wheeler high schools; theater replacements at North Cobb, Pope and South Cobb high schools, and replacement gyms at Lassiter, Walton and Campbell high schools.

The schools where temporary buildings would be considered are at Compton, Mount Bethel, Tritt and Sope Creek elementary schools and Tapp and Daniell middle schools.

Cobb Schools officials are now working on getting feedback from principals who have been asked to talk to their Parent-Teacher-Student Associations and school communities about needs for their schools.

At the school board’s Oct. 10 work session, they should be getting that feedback from the individual school communities.

In Marietta City, Superintendent Lembeck said her district’s number one priority will be to eliminate all debt, which includes paying off the Marietta High $7 million bond for the auditorium, if a fourth SPLOST is approved.

“There will be a number of items that impact our schools positively and of course technology will be considered,” she said. “(SPLOST has) become a tool and an expectation in education.”

Marietta’s Board Chairwoman Jill Mutimer said that with so much of her school district’s budget going toward personnel expenses and the attrition cuts from the federal and state governments, SPLOST is an “alternative source” for funding for capital needs.

“I prefer the SPLOST … rather than bonds, which is only paid for by property owners,” she said. “We’re going to be taking a really hard look at our needs … but my first priority is using the SPLOST to eliminate debt, including the auditorium bond.”

The board retreat to discuss the project list will be held in the boardroom at 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 7 and is open to the public.
Comments
(57)
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NCLocke
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August 28, 2012
Anyone voting no for SPLOST IV is short sighted. Home values are closely tied to quality schools. This includes the staff and facilities. Making capital improvements will better position Cobb schools to offer a good education in a state of the art environment. As the Atlanta metro region continues to grow organically and corporations continue relocating here, be mindful that we are competing with North Fulton and Forsyth counties for new residents seeking quality housing and quality schools. When they go to Cummins, Milton, Johns Creek, Alpharetta, etc., do they see 50 year old schools with beat-up trailers???? In most cases, I don't think so!!!!! They see new schools with impressive CAMPUSES. In order for Cobb County, especially East Cobb, to be on equal footing with other desirable communities, we must pass SPLOST IV, V, VI, etc. Otherwise we risk sitting on the sidelines watching real estate values increase elsewhere, while ours stagnate.
Mom of Two
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August 24, 2012
It seems to me when you are on the 4th iteration of a tax it no longer qualifies as special purpose. For those that think the tax does not go for maintenance what do you call repaving of the parking lot or new roofs? I believe the county has purchased textbooks with the funds. The CCSD needs to live with the money collected. Yes, they can raise the millage but there is a limit as to how high they can go. If they cannot put the SPLOST on the general election in November then I will always vote no. It is well documented that the turnout for these March votes has less than 10% of the registered voters.
Georgia Native
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August 27, 2012
Mom of Two please explain to me how CCSD is suppose to continue to absorb hundreds of millions in budget cuts from the State and still continue to meet Federal and State mandates?

How many students do you want in your children's classroom? 40 50 60? How about 60 or 70 year old school buildings that need replacement? Tires for buses ..... get the whole picture yet?

You are just another dolt who cannot comprehend how large the school district is. 104 Thousand Students , 112 school buildings, teachers, support staff, on and on.

You line of thinking suggest that we should just shut down the schools and the rest of the government. We do not need paved roads, water/sewer, traffic lights, police, fire, etc. All so you can pay a few dollars less a year in taxes THAT YOU BENEFIT FROM 10X than you pay in.

Educate yourself and maybe your comments will not be so simple minded.
No Way
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August 21, 2012
Why should I pay more taxes to support thousands of undocumented/illegal students? The parents who dumped them in our laps to fund, need to pack up and head way South. How much does it cost to fund all of the undocumented students clogging up our schools? VOTE NO!!!!!
anonymous
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August 21, 2012
I'm voting for tax relief - there is enough money the CCSD gets. I need some of my money to pay MY bills. Tired of paying for others wants and ignoring my needs!

Georgia Native
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August 21, 2012
The unformed comments regarding SPLOST (Special Local Option Sales Tax) amaze me. Cobb County School District's SPLOST has NOTHING to do with the recent TSPLOST (Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax but most of the com-mentors cannot comprehend this. Just what we need uniformed party line voters.

You do realize that without SPLOST CCSD Board can raise your property tax from 18 mills to 20 mills and the CCSD board could issue bonds (paid by property tax) to fund construction, additions, remodels, and maintenance. I would much rather pay a 1% sales tax than have my property tax go up. Everyone in Cobb plus non residents pay sales tax. Remember most of our property taxes have gone down due to property value declining during the recession.

You rant and rave without FACTS regarding the CCSD budget. The CCSD budget HAS BEEN CUT the last 10 years due to the continued austerity cuts started by Sonny Perdue. CCSD local property taxes now fund 51% of the budget while the State of GA now funds only 37% with continue cuts each year. 10 years ago this was reversed.

Maybe you Tea Baggers should put the Kool Aid down and actually see what is going on under the Gold Dome. Public Schools in Georgia are being systematically destroyed by ALEC led Republicans by defunding public schools and shifting the tax funding to the local taxpayers - ALL against State Law aka QBE and the State Constitution.

You are playing right into their hands by having us fight each other while they continue to take care of their buddies - that bankers and Wall Street. Before you start calling me a liberal Democrat I will be voting Libertarian in Nov. neither of the candidates we have now will represent ALL Americans instead of their partisan supporters.
Maintenance?
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August 21, 2012
Maintenance??? I thought SPLOST was for capital outlay funds??? I smell a rat....
oh no!
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August 21, 2012
I bet the schools will dismiss early on the SPLOST vote day.
gatorboy62
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August 21, 2012
I like the quote about how Cobb county voters are acustom to the process, It's call grabbing your ankles, and asking can I have another one!

Sick of the continous taxes, VOTE NO.
All Together Now
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August 21, 2012
The school board does not control the senior exemption.
Kennesaw Resident
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August 30, 2012
The CCSB can ask the State Legislators to act on a repeal of the exemption, the process should begin there and they need to ask the legislators to redact it from the State Constitution.
Red Eye
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August 21, 2012
There's a reason they colored the maintenance part of the pie red. It doesn't belong in there.

There is nothing special about maintenance.

Interesting... the most legitmate pieces of the SPLOST pie are blue and gradually work their way around the color wheel to red.

But, they are admitting up front that they are not going to use the money for special projects. So if you vote yes, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Jack Shankles
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August 21, 2012
What really bothers me is the fact that we have to have an election with one issue. This cost about 250000 to either vote yes or no.

Of course we could combine this vote with another election saving 250000 but special interest (the school system in this case) fear that they would lose. It's that simple.
Gringo Bandito
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August 21, 2012
I agree completely. SPLOST votes should only be allowed to be held on the day of a general election.
Just the Facts...
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August 21, 2012
Georgia Code 20-2-491 requires public schools to obtain continuing performance audits of sales tax for capital outlay if the tax generates $5 million or more annually. Here are the auditor's SPLOST III conclusions for the year ending Dec. 2011.

Based on our procedures:

There were no findings and we conclude that the CCSD SPLOST III proceeds were disbursed in compliance with the SPLOST III Resolution.

There were no material findings and we conclude that the CCSD SPLOST III program is following sound procurement procedures and are being disbursed in a fiscally responsible manner.

We conclude that the CCSD SPLOST III administrative controls have been established to ensure the proper management of the sales tax proceeds received by the District.

Based on a cost comparison report by RS Means Company that was provided to us by the State Department of Education and the 2012 Annual School Construction Report by the School Planning and Management magazine which reviews construction costs for the year 2011, it appears that the CCSD new school construction cost per square foot is comparable to or lower than the average cost per square foot for local, statewide, and regional school districts for the year ending December 31, 2011.

Based on our procedures, we conclude that the SPLOST III technological expenditures made in 2011 are reasonable considering the potentially volatile market environment for these products.

Based on our audit procedures, we conclude that the SPLOST Ill sales tax proceeds are being invested in a sound fiscal manner.
Fred C. Dobbs
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August 21, 2012
Mouthbreathers only understand pitchforks and torches. Facts, facts? We don't need no stinkin' facts!
TIC
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August 21, 2012
Look at your tax bill. The school millage is 18.90 out of a total of 30.26 or 62.5% of your entire tax bill.

That is the budget. Live within it.

SPLOST is just an additional tax that allows the taxes collected by the millage rate to be used for administrative salaries that have spun out of control.

The revenues collected through ad valorem taxes are for education, not a jobs program for overpaid administrators who add little or nothing to the educational attainment of our children.

Then the SPLOST revenues are used for wants, not needs.

Our school campuses, especially at the high schools, are becoming country club type environments with sports and extracurricular activity facilties that rival private colleges.

CCSS IS OUT OF CONTROL!!

@TIC
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August 21, 2012
Where are you facts TIC. Please list the high schools that are country clubs. You mention sports facilities - you do realize that CCSD does NOT build the football stadiums, baseball fields, etc they are built and maintained by the booster clubs. Lassiter's sports complex was built with private donations just as all school sports facilities are.

CCSD covers 51% of the budget from Cobb County property taxes and SPLOST. The State of Georgia only funds about 37% because of austerity cuts over the last 10 years despite the QBE funding law. Cobb's overall population and student population has grown tremendously over the last decade but school funding has continued to decline.

CCSD is down over 1800 teaching positions over the last 4 years along with other staff cuts. It's funny how idiots like you spout off about TAXES without a basic understanding of how Cobb schools are funded. Remember that housing value are down which means property tax revenue is down. You do realize that a some point new tax revenue must be raised in order to meet Federal and State Unfunded mandates. What do you suggest Mr. Know it All. I await your BS answer.
You're insane
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August 21, 2012
Do you seriously think high schools are like country club environments? Which schools resemble such facilities? HIllgrove is not new, but still looks nice, so I will give you that. The new 9th grade centers are nice at North Cobb and South Cobb. Have you been to Osborne? Campbell? Sprayberry? Harrison? So many of the schools are far out of date with their facilities. Now that we want to pack 35 kids in each class we have to create the space to teach such numbers. I encourage you to visit the schools before you spout such nonsense again.
TIC
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August 22, 2012
I was referring primarily to the overpaid administrators and the athletic fields and faciltities and the extracurricular activity venues.

if you think the Athletic booster clubs and bad parents are paying for all of the construction, upgrades and maintenance you are fooling yourself. No way!!

Prove it!!!

Just look at the SPLOST III project list to get an idea of some of the projects being paid for.

Also demand to see the SPLOST IV list before voting on it.

My point is that the SPLOST funds as well as the 18.90 mills needs to first go to basic educational facilties and staff.

For instance at Lassiter HS where my kids went.

Why couldn't the tennis courts at Harrison Park be used by the high school which is right next door, They are mostly vacant during the school day

Why couldn't the baseball fields at Sandy Plains Park, again literally right next door to the high school, be used for Lassiter baseball? Totally vacant during the school day.

Just a few examples I am sure there are more.

Buzz @
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August 21, 2012
While the Harrison gym is not equal to the newer schools like Hillgrove and Allatoona, it is far from inadequate. If this represents the types of projects from SPLOST my vote will be no.
Smyrna Resident
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August 21, 2012
I vote YES! The longer you wait to make these upgrades, the more expensive they get. Our kids need better, newer facilities. In this day and age we should NOT have kids in trailers and antiquated buildings. To stay on top of technology and keep up with other counties, states and even other Countries, we OWE it to our children.
@ Smyrna Resident
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August 21, 2012
Cut them a check and mail it in then. I am sure the CCSS could use your donation. I am taxed enough already!
Seniors Pay Up!
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August 21, 2012
Taking the seniors out of the taxation for schools was an idea that was politically born and aimed for final defeat. How about freezing property taxes (including the schools component) when homeowner reach 62 years of age, instead of seniors not paying a cent toward schools? That would be more "fair".
Kennesaw Resident
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August 21, 2012
Seniors definitely need to pay up!

Seniors receive a disproportionate share of benefits from our society and need to contribute in the years when they are receiving the most benefit. After all, thanks to Reagan most of them will never pay in what these younger folks will have to to receive less benefits.
TCW(TheCobbWay)
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August 21, 2012
I am a senior citizen and would have absolutely no problem paying the school millage IF I thought the tax revenues flowing to the school system were being wisely spent.

Back to the basics.

As it is I am glad my money is not going to support the non essential spending that is so rampant in our school system.

Kennesaw Resident
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August 21, 2012
@TCW, one gets the feeling that you would never be satisfied and taxes don't work that way. You don't get a say so in how they are spent except through your vote. I will vote for school board members who will go after doing away with the senior exemption.

If we could choose, I certainly would have opted out of SS and Medicare. They are a terrible deal!
Go Away SPLOSTs!!!
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August 21, 2012
Have you ever seen a tax go away??? I haven't. But we can vote to end the SPLOST dollars going to schools.

To "Please Vote Yes": Get a grip!!! The kids will NOT suffer from lack of SPLOST funds. And, each homeowner will get a break on total taxation by increasing homeowner taxes less than through SPLOST revenue!!! Calculate it out, folks!

Every time there is a school issue, we hear "it's for the children". Well, the kids have enough already. We are sucked dry, yet school scores don't increase. Cobb taxpayers need to vote "HELL NO!" on the next school SPLOST! Remember, each SPLOST has only passed by a slim margin (several hundred votes!).
Mairzy Doats
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August 21, 2012
Get your facts straight. The last school SPLOST vote in Cobb in 2008 won by nearly 8,000 votes (61%-39%). Booyah!
Kennesaw Resident
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August 21, 2012
Can't wait to put up that big "NO" sign in my yard! Booyah!
anonymous
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August 21, 2012
One yard, one sign - so sad for you and the other lost 39 percenters.
anonymous
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August 21, 2012
Guess there just weren't enough yard signs in '08. Nothing gets my attention and vote like a piece of cardboard on a stick. Will there also be something shiny on it to draw the attention of other anti-splostites? Nothing can make them catatonic like a shiny object.
Cobb Taxpayer
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August 21, 2012
It looks like there may be more than one sign put out anonymous, based on the comments here! I wouldn't count on this SPLOST passing.
Kakraeger
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August 24, 2012
As a fourth grade teacher, I have 28 students in a classroom that was built to house 20- 25, without the technology equipment that is necessary to prepare our students for the workplace of the future. The building is over 50 years old. We make do without modern equipment, efficient heating and cooling systems, and even an up-to-date library for our students. But when the lower tax revenues mean I can have up to 32 students in such a small classroom, I have to say that a new school is a NEED. My students want to learn, but struggle to find the space to hang their backpacks and walk around their classroom with so many students in the room. If you doubt this, come on in-anytime!

There may be wasteful spending, but rebuilding schools that are over 50 years old, is not it!
Stop SPLOST Use!
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August 21, 2012
It's time to end the abuse of SPLOSTs. Just an additional 1% sales tax on all our household sales each year means about $2,000 to $3,000 less money we have to spend for our basic needs -- including food and drugs. Yes, we all pay the 1% for schools and 1% for Cobb County on food and drugs. This is insane!

Too many Cobb households are like mine: Strapped for cash during this recession. (And, we never spent for vacations, luxuries, etc. during the good economic years!)

Schools have this easy access to funds that is being abused! Just visit any Cobb school and you will see plenty of waste! When you add in this amount in the current 1%, you realize that we are all paying way too much in taxation to live in Cobb. If this amount were added to our residential property taxes, the amount for each homeowner/renter would be astronomical!!! Quit the insanity!!!
You define insanity
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August 21, 2012
You are the insane one. Where is the waste in the schools? The classes packed at 35-50 kids per class? The teachers not getting simple cost of living raises? The reduction of supplies and technology for teachers and students to use? The outdated facilities held together with duct tape? If there is rampant misuse of funding by local schools, I haven't seen it in the last 5 years. It's almost insane how anyone in the public can have such an opinion. Oh wait, it's someone who never spends time in a school and is selfishly looking out for himself or herself.
Benevolus
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August 21, 2012
There are 11 posts as of this writing and the ignorance shown so far is simply mind numbing. From the ones who don't know the difference between a school SPLOST and TSPLOST, to those who think if it passes it is a tax increase (it would be a continuation and not an increase), to those who think that money has been wasted and there is no audit (which would be against the law). Sure as the sun will rise this SPLOST too shall pass (yawn). Whatever side your on, please educate yourselves before commenting. Your statements so far are good for nothing butt belly laughs from those thousands of us without children who will voted yes and the parents of the 100,000 Cobb and Marietta students who believe we owe it to the children to provide the best and safest environments to learn in. Drone on naysayers, we need the laughs.
The Big Dawg
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August 21, 2012
Benevolus, Thank you for your "clarification" of the difference between TSPLOST and SPLOST. Now if you can read the rest of your comment and apply the same "clarification," I'm sure you will "educate" yourself.
Watcher...
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August 21, 2012
No additional SPLOST for CCSD or Cobb County!
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