Panel asks if SPLOST list is legal
by Lindsay Field
September 25, 2012 12:23 AM | 2828 views | 16 16 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Members of Cobb Schools’ Facilities and Technology Committee question the legality of the SPLOST IV project list at their two-hour Monday night meeting.

James Wilson from Educations Planners Inc. of Marietta presented the 200-plus page SPLOST IV notebook of projects to the group officially and afterwards received questions from members. His company created the list for the district.

Committee Chair Kimberley Euston kicked off the conversation by asking if the district’s legal counsel had in fact reviewed the list in its entirety and deemed every project worthy of being considered a SPLOST project.

“Almost 55 percent of these proposed projects … seem to be more in maintenance,” she said. “I’m curious if the attorneys have looked at the notebook because some of these projects seem to contradict where they should be in with SPLOST.”

She gave the example of concession stands for athletic facilities.

“Can we do this under SPLOST, because the legal definitions from my understanding it, no,” she said.

Wilson hesitated initially to give a direct yes or no answer but said that SPLOST has been open to many interpretations and that he did present it to Cobb’s legal counsel and they have not come back to him with any concerns about the document.

Fellow board member Curtis Johnston asked a second series of questions to Wilson — is anything on the SPLOST list different than anything on previous SPLOST lists and if they are doing anything with SPLOST IV that hasn’t been done anywhere else in Georgia?

“It’s pretty much a carbon copy of SPLOST II and III,” Wilson said. “No district to my knowledge is doing what Richard Royal wrote this law to be. They have all stretched it and it’s been reviewed and reviewed and reviewed many times over and they are allowing it.”

Morten Brante, who was appointed to the committee by school board member Lynnda Eagle, also asked Wilson if a more detailed list would be released to the public, specifically one that lists the dollar amount for each project in the individual school needs lists.

He and Euston said they wanted to be as transparent as they could with the public about what the district would be asking for when they put the SPLOST IV referendum before Cobb voters in March 2013.

“You have the information, let’s just make it easier for the voters,” Euston said.

Wilson said it wouldn’t be a problem to line item each project, but he avoided doing that because they had concerns about how voters would use the information

“In the history of creating SPLOST, we have really tried to avoid where a school could say they are getting $10 million and your school is getting $9.6 million,” he said. “We would hope that the citizens and residents of our county would not be lured into voting yes or not based on the fact that their school got more or less dollars.”

Committee members John Williams and Dr. John Crooks both echoed Wilson’s statements, saying it could deter voters from voting for something that could benefit the district as a whole.

One of the newest members to the committee, Thea Powell, who was appointed by board member Kathleen Angelucci, asked for research statistics on the two proposed career academies that Wilson and his staff have suggested being built in the northern and southern ends of the county.

She asked what benefits there are to having the academies.

He said he had visited a number of career academies and specifically researched the schools in California, where approximately 300 currently exist.

Wilson said current data shows an increase in graduation rates, reduction in drop-out rates and the possibility for more students to continue into a secondary education setting.

Alison Bartlett, who is the school board’s appointed liaison on the committee, also chimed in saying that the academies would help the district fall in line with state’s recently adopted College and Career Ready Performance Index.

Wayne Brown, who was also appointed by Angelucci, said he’d like to see more hard data, specifically from Georgia school districts that have career academies, about enrollment figures, graduation rates and job placement after graduation.

Bartlett said she would take the group’s questions and concerns regarding SPLOST back to the board at the next scheduled work session in October.

The school district is currently collecting feedback from the school administrations and communities and the school board anticipates voting on the referendum to go before voters at their November meeting.

If approved in March, collections for SPLOST IV would begin Jan. 1, 2014, and run through Dec. 31, 2018, and could bring in approximately $717 million in a five-year time period.

Collections for SPLOST III, which should wrap up on Dec. 31, 2013, are expected to bring in around $600 million.

Right now there are about 262 individual projects valued at $57.5 million remaining at 53 different facilities in Cobb on the SPLOST III list.

All but F&T Committee members Josh Rowan, Roger Phelps, Dr. Angie Delvin-Brown, Todd Herrington, Virginia Gregory and Leslie Rowbottom were present.

The group’s next meeting will be held Oct. 22 at the school board office at 540 Glover St. and will begin at 6 p.m.
Comments
(16)
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@ Lindsay
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September 28, 2012
"Panel" infers that this is the opinion of the committee. Did the committee have this opinion? Did they take a vote?
anonymous
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September 27, 2012
Maintenance - Schmaintenance

Call it whatever you want.

Does the "maintenance" work need to be done or not?

Seeing that the district was shy north of $60 million on its budget this year, where do SPLOST opponents believe funding will come from?

It's not in the current budget because the funding is not there.

If the state legislators will be bold enough to restore the austerity cuts, you might get part of the way there.

Don't hold your breath - there is a concerted effort by our Georgia legislators led by Chip Rogers and by Governor Deal to dismantle public education. The assault includes not providing adequate funding which adversely affects maintenance and operations for public schools.

If you desire to take care of our local schools - support SPLOST.

If you are delusional enough to believe that Georgia is going to address this funding issue, we've all got bigger problems on our hands and certain medical practitioners may be able to assist with the condition.
Cobb Taxpayer 2
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September 26, 2012
The CCBE should be discussing how will they plan for the future when voters wake up and stop handing them tax money defined as SPLOST.

VOTE NO ON THE NEXT SPLOST.
anonymous
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September 25, 2012
Yes it is legal. Every District in Georgia supports our kids except for backwards Cobb. How do people this ignorant get to be on this committee?
Voice of Reason
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September 25, 2012
Everything you build, you must also burden taxpayers with the extra cost of the build, future maintenance, and replacement.

Since the US and Cobb Parents are more concerned with American Idol, they are building fancy auditoriums, artificial turf fields, nice baseball and athletic facilities, and pretty landscaping and electronic signs at schools, they miss the point of school.

I ask you, is this the proper use of educational funds when our dropout rates stay high and Cobb SAT test scores decline?

I think all Cobb voters are ignorant of reality and are living in their own dreamworld.
@ Voice of Reason
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September 26, 2012
Answering your question - It seems you may be confusing "educational funds" with "SPLOST" funds.

SPLOST funds can't be spent on teacher salaries, but they can be spent on technology, text books, classrooms, and energy efficiency projects for example.

Doubtful SPLOST has any impact on dropout rates or SAT scores. Those matters are more family/parental involvement driven than by any other measure.

dustoff
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September 25, 2012
Excuse me, but you want me to support a SPLOST that is going to build concession stands.

NO WAY!!!!
anonymous
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September 25, 2012
Ms. Euston should know that current GA SPLOST law includes the following concerning county projects (i.e. see GA Code: 48-8-121):

“(F) Patching, leveling, milling, widening, shoulder preparation, culvert repair, and other repairs necessary for the preservation of roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, and bicycle paths.”

Patching, leveling and other repairs necessary for the preservation of… would certainly seem to fall into the realm of maintenance.

Why should school districts be any different?

Brush up on what qualifies for capital outlay expenditures.

Concerning education, GA Code (20-2-260) states:

"Capital outlay" includes, but is not necessarily limited to, expenditures which result in the acquisition of fixed assets, existing buildings, improvements to sites, construction of buildings, construction of additions to buildings, retrofitting of existing buildings for energy conservation, and initial and additional equipment and furnishings for educational facilities.

The latitude is there for a reason. Voters decide what to support.

I’ll take a new roof over childrens’ heads in classrooms paid for via a sales tax over an increase in my property tax any day.

Devlin Adams
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September 25, 2012
to Anonymous: Nice bit of rationlization in trying to put a round peg into a square hole. Seems you left out a key part of the section of the Code you quoted.

The qualifier for the item (F) you quoted is as follows.

(3) In the event that a qualified municipality fails to comply with the requirements of this part, the county within the special district shall not be held liable for such noncompliance.

(b)(1) If the resolution or ordinance calling for the imposition of the tax specified that the proceeds of the tax are to be used in whole or in part for capital outlay projects consisting of road, street, and bridge purposes, then authorized uses of the tax proceeds shall include:

Since an education SPLOST hardly consists of roads, streets and bridges, your whole argument is rendered null and void.

Based on what I have read of the Code, roads, streets and bridges are the only areas where routine maintenance costs can be paid for by SPLOST funds.

K Euston
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September 25, 2012
Feel free to contact me directly. Thank you for voicing your opinion but if you are so sure in your argument, be bold enugh to post your name instead of hiding behind,"anonymous" . I can be reached at 404 539 5603.
@ Devlin Adams
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September 26, 2012
You're typically sharper than that...

Guessed you missed the comparison question of county projects vs. school projects.

"Why should school district's be different?"

Under Georgia law, they are not.

It's legal for counties to maintain roads. It's also legal for schools to maintain facilities.
Kennesaw Resident
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September 25, 2012
Vote "NO" for SPLOST!
Cobb Taxpayer
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September 25, 2012
School SPLOST projects are often illegal (always have been in Cobb) , but Brock and Clay are paid from such funds, and they will never advise projects to be illegal. I guess the defense is that everyone else is "doing it", so it must be ok ( sound like teenage argument and very immature). The BOE gave up and failed to budget maintenance, yet alone preventive maintenance years ago ! What's the solution to weak leadership ?
VFP42
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September 25, 2012
How did we pay for all these things prior to SPLOST? The money came from somewhere. The big question surrounding SPLOST that NOBODY ever addresses is, where does all the pre-SPLOST money go?

If $10 million went into maintenance prior to SPLOST, but now SPLOST pays that $10 million, what did the old $10 million go to pay for?

Some mule? A Gone With the Wind tourist trap? 12 foot wide sidewalks that go places too far to walk?

SPLOST should be outlawed! Everything the gub'ment does should come from a plain gub'ment fund. Enough of the Smoke and Mirrors!

SPLOST is the new FOUR LETTER WORD!
Brown Powell Clueles
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September 25, 2012
Our drop out rate and graduation rates are low due to having a one size fits all curriculum in Georgia. Michigan has career academies that benefit those who don't want to go to college. This gives all types of students an opportunity to be successful somewhere in life. Brown and Powell are the type of people who don't care about all kids. These academies are fabulous because kids come out of high school with a profession. It gives them hope to be productive citizens. Seems like Angelucci's picks for the committee were not very well educated on making decisions for ALL students. Georgia is behind the times folks!
K Euston
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September 25, 2012
I met with many administrators and learned their schools offer auto tech, graphic design, pre engineering, etc. and the classes are NOT full since funding for bus transportaion from other schools was eliminated. The CCSD schould consider using EXISTING space, EXISTING teachers, EXISTING programs for career academies. Why sink $60 mio in to new buildings? How will the students be transported to and from the academies when we can not afford to tranpoort the students with existing programs? The students can not graduate from these academies. Use the space we have and not drop $60 mio in an abyss.
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