School board to vote on SPLOST IV projects
by Lindsay Field
November 10, 2012 12:53 AM | 2765 views | 6 6 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Most members on the Marietta school board are happy with the proposed list of SPLOST IV projects.

The group will consider approving the SPLOST IV project list during their Tuesday night meeting. They will also vote on whether to hold a special election on March 19, 2013, for Cobb voters to vote on the referendum.

Marietta presented the first draft of SPLOST IV projects at their early September retreat. The district expects to collect around $55 million in the 1 percent sales tax between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2018.

The amount of tax dollars Cobb Schools, which is estimating a collection of $718 million, and Marietta would receive from SPLOST IV collections will be based on the Full-Time Equivalent enrollment numbers reported to the state in March 2013.

Marietta will receive about 7 percent of collections, and Cobb would get around 93 percent.

Marietta’s notebook includes paying off the district’s debt of $15.2 million, which includes about $3 million from the Marietta High School theater bond voters approved last spring; updating technology in the classroom at a ticket price of $13.6 million; and construction, modifications, renovations and equipment valued at about $20.2 million, which includes $5.3 million to update Northcutt Stadium and the installation of a $630,000 synthetic turf field.

Board chair Jill Mutimer, vice chair Randy Weiner and members Stuart Fleming, Tony Fasola, Irene Berens and Tom Cheater have said they will vote in favor of the referendum.

Only board newcomer Brett Bittner declined to say.

“I do not have a final decision made until we hear all available information,” Bittner said.

Mutimer said 85 percent of the district’s general fund goes to personnel, leaving only about 15 percent to pay for “keeping the lights on, buying instructional materials, etc.”

“Everyone agrees teachers are our most important asset in our ongoing operations. There has to be another mechanism for providing for capital needs,” she said. “Pre-SPLOST, this was bond debt which is levied only on the property owners of the municipality. I believe SPLOST is a more effective means to provide for the capital needs of school systems and more favorable to the property owners.”

She also said she’s pleased with the list because it focuses on the “high priority and most pressing needs of the system.”

Cheater said he’d like to keep an eye on the stadium renovation.

“The scope and complexity of this project is formidable, and we need to look toward MCS’ future needs very carefully in this respect,” he said.

But Bittner has a problem with projects that do not affect student achievement.

“There are some items on the list that are necessary infrastructure items that need to be addressed, but asking the taxpayers to foot the bill for things that do not have a positive impact on our goals for student achievement may not win my vote,” he said. “On the other hand, I truly appreciate the efforts to provide a stronger financial picture for the future by retiring debt incurred by the district.”

With regards to when Cobb voters will go to the polls on the referendum, Bittner seems to be the only board member with a few concerns about the March 2013 election but mostly because of how costly a special election can be.

Cobb Board of Elections Director Janine Eveler could not say exactly how much a special election could cost but said the March 2011 Cobb County SPLOST election was $295,725.

Mutimer said it is important for the vote to be held in March because it legally allows the district to use SPLOST funds to help pay for a portion of the high school auditorium bond.

“If the vote takes place in November (2013), we will be finished with the auditorium and can’t put those costs in SPLOST,” she said. “By having a March vote, assuming approval by voters, we could likely reduce or eliminate millage to pay for this portion of the auditorium for up to about three years.”

Weiner said March gives the public “ample time” to be educated on the referendum. He also said it prevents a gap in collections.

If the vote were delayed until November 2013, collections would halt in Dec. 31, 2013, and not begin again until April 1, 2014.

Fleming said he wouldn’t oppose extending the voting date if it allowed for a more “healthy and robust dialogue.”

In other news, the board will consider approving:

n A $83,363 automobile insurance annual contract with State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance company, which would be paid for out of the district’s General Fund.

“State Farm has provided vehicle coverage to the system for several years. We have found State Farm to be very professional and helpful over these years,” the superintendent recommendation states.

Marietta only received one other bid, from Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency for $102,645.

n A $97,870 contract with W.E. Contracting of Acworth to construct a stormwater pollution prevention facility, which will be located next to the bus maintenance facility off Dodd Street in Marietta. It will be paid for out of the district’s Building Fund.

The facility is required by Georgia Environmental Protection Division to meet the guidelines in addressing stormwater runoff where district vehicle maintenance is performed.

The second lowest bid was received from Westmoreland Contracting of Jacksonville, Fla., for $112,553, followed by a $101,344 bid from Torrance Construction of LaGrange.

The meeting will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Marietta City Schools board office, 250 Howard St. in Marietta.
Comments
(6)
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Cobb Taxpayer
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November 12, 2012
I will vote "NO."
Offering Help
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November 11, 2012
I strongly agree with SPLOST IV.Congratulations to the new board member,Mr.Brittner,for taking the extra time to research issues before making important decisions.Fellow Board member Mr.Cheater should follow Brittner’s example and take a more active role in his job,which includes attending all the MCS board meetings.MDJ

previously stated that Mr.Cheater has a low attendance record. As taxpayers we should demand more from our representatives.If Mr.Cheater cannot commit to the position he accepted, he should resign and give another individual the opportunity.

Another way for the MCS Board to allocate more resources in the classroom is to evaluate the value of well-compensated positions, such as the Associate Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent for Special Services,Executive Director of Maintenance and Support,Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction,and the Director of Communications.What performance metrics are these individuals measured and held accountable?Do we really need these positions for such a small school system with only 8400 students?

Maybe it’s time for new leadership on the board. That should start with a change in rules that has resulted in board leadership that is not accountable to all voters.We should insist that school board members value transparency and accountability.

liza johnson
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November 11, 2012
I sure glad the board members are happy however I will vote no. There are a lot of WANTS vs Needs.
Just Sayin'....
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November 10, 2012
Question for anyone who actually knows. Can the Marietta school board force the Cobb County School Board into the March referendum date?
@ Just Sayin'
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November 12, 2012
No. Neither board can force the other, yet they must proceed with their proposals at the same time.

The Cobb School district cannot, nor can the Marietta district proceed with independent SPLOSTs.

It's a county wide initiative.
Pat H
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November 10, 2012
Wow, more AstroTurf. What a coincidence that Tim Lee has one client, who happens to make fibers for artificial turf.
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