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.