Around Town: With elections over, it’s time for SPLOST Season
by Bill Kinney and Joe Kirby
Around Town Columnists
November 13, 2012 12:00 AM | 3357 views | 6 6 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE HOLIDAY SEASON is almost upon us — and so is another SPLOST Season. In fact, taxpayers can be forgiven for feeling like it’s always SPLOST Season in Cobb County.

The Cobb School Board is expected to agree at Wednesday’s work session to put the SPLOST IV referendum on the calendar for March, even though the SPLOST “notebook” of projects to be funded by the five-year tax was just unveiled barely a week ago. And it’s even though Cobb voters overwhelmingly voted down a Transportation SPLOST referendum July 31, signaling that local residents are fed up with paying extra taxes.

Many Cobb voters also were left disenchanted by last year’s county road SPLOST fallout. SPLOST boosters warned if the SPLOST failed the county would have to raise property taxes to close the gap. That SPLOST passed, but just barely. And within days of its approval Commission Chairman Tim Lee announced a property tax increase was unavoidable anyway.

SO WHY the school board’s rush? Because if the new tax is not approved in March, there would be a gap in revenue collected after the current tax expires Dec. 31 of next year.

The board will press ahead with Wednesday’s vote, Chairman Scott Sweeney told Around Town last week, even though board members Tim Stultz and Kathleen Angelucci have suggested the board should wait a year before bringing another SPLOST before voters. Any education SPLOST would have to be held jointly with the Marietta School System, and the two boards have worked out a joint timeline for the $718 million (Cobb)/$55 million (city) tax. The Marietta board is expected to approve its SPLOST list today.

“There’s no way one system could do it without the other,” Sweeney said. “If we delayed the collection of the tax, it would delay the start of major projects by a year.

“With a March vote, the revenue stream starts January 1,” he continued. “With that certainty, we can start the planning process and commence construction on the major projects in the summer of 2014. If there’s a delay, the revenue stream would be delayed by three months at a minimum. The planning process also would be delayed and there would not be construction until summer 2015.”

MEANWHILE, skeptical board-watchers suspect the real reason for the hurried March referendum is that if it fails in March it probably would fail in November as well. So they might as well bite the bullet and let the public turn it down in March so that it can be brought back in early 2014 (as opposed to late 2014) for another vote, goes the thinking. So much for considering the public’s desire for lower taxes.

The timing for a school SPLOST could hardly be worse. Voters easily derailed the well-funded TSPLOST effort. And the board also would have to overcome the public’s resentment over the approximate $300,000 cost of holding a special countywide March election just for SPLOST.

Plus there’s the likelihood that a variety of federal taxes will be going up soon in the wake of Obama’s re-election. A Romney victory would have brought fresh hope for implementation of policies that would jump-start the economy. Instead we’re looking at four more years of Obamaism and the possibility of sliding back into another recession.

SPLOSTs were designed to serve as “special” taxes to fund brick-and-mortar projects and allow fast-growing school systems to keep up with the growth. But enrollment in the two local systems is essentially stable and many suspect a disproportionate share of SPLOST revenues is going to support maintenance and operations instead.

There’s no doubt a SPLOST IV would give Cobb schools a financial shot in the arm. But if you pardon us for mixing metaphors, it appears the board is more likely to be on the verge of shooting itself in the foot.

RETIRED MARIETTA attorney Bill Waldrop told Around Town on Monday that given the chance to say it all again he’d have said it a different way — and we don’t doubt that’s the case. But his comments at Saturday’s Cobb Democratic Party Breakfast about prominent conservative pundit Dr. Charles Krauthammer, a paraplegic, nonetheless landed with a loud clang among readers used to seeing Democrats quick to pounce on any and all instances of alleged insensitivity by conservatives.

Waldrop was bashing conservative commentators seen on Fox News, many of who had loudly predicted a win for Romney and who now have egg on their faces.

“That Sean Hannity,” Waldrop said, ‘We’re gonna win in a landslide.’ It didn’t happen. And what was that fellow, ‘Froffenheimer?’ Goes around in that wheel cart he’s got, talking nasty about all of us …”

Krauthammer has been confined to a wheelchair since a diving accident in 1971.

Cobb Democratic Party Chair Melissa Pike, questioned by Around Town on Monday, said Waldrop was speaking “facetiously” and that her organization had no plans to disavow his remarks.

“I would think the MDJ would rise above that kind of pettiness,” she added.

Waldrop explained to AT that his comments “were not meant to be mean-spirited, for sure” and that there were people in the audience in wheelchairs. Moreover, he said he sometimes has difficulty finding the right word to say due to the affects of a stroke he suffered a decade ago.

“That’s why I said ‘wheel cart’ instead of wheelchair,” he said. “And I should have picked on Karl Rove instead, but I didn’t think of his name right away.”

THE COBB DEMOCRATIC PARTY will have its business meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Marietta Fire Department Museum conference room. While the event will include an election of board members to two-year terms, don’t look for Chairwoman Pike to give up her seat without a fight.

“I will warn you again, I am running for chair. If you run against me, I will cut you,” she said at Saturday’s party breakfast, drawing laughs from the audience of 60.

Pike later returned to the microphone to clarify her remarks.

“So that I’m not misquoted, I need to tell you that I will cut you facetiously,” she said.

MORE ON THE ELECTION: President Obama won seven of Marietta’s 12 precincts, and narrowly won the city overall, 10,697 votes to 9,735 for Mitt Romney. Precinct 2B on the city’s west side, long home to some of its most prominent residents, gave the nod to Obama by 1,616 votes to 1,264. Marietta has long been a Democratic stronghold, even during the 1980s when the rest of the county was overwhelmingly Republican. …

No, George W. Bush did not lose to Obama in the 2008 presidential race, despite an assertion to the contrary by Around Town Saturday in its report on the remarks by Mercer University economist Dr. Roger Tutterow at Wednesday’s election post-mortem hosted by the Cobb Chamber’s President’s Club.

What Tutterow had said — and what Around Town muddled in its translation — was that the presidency has changed party during the post-World War II era whenever the election was conducted during, or immediately following a recession.

“In 2008, the recession began in January of that year and reached greatest intensity in late 2008 and early 2009,” Tutterow added on Saturday. “It was clearly a factor in the Obama-McCain election.

“In 2012, we are not currently in recession, but with the unemployment rate near 8 percent and employment still over 4 million jobs below 2007 level, one would have expected that to have been a major challenge for President Obama.”

KEN KIRK, who splits his time between Marietta and his chateau in France, is hosting 17 members of a French veterans group here. The members and their spouses of the Association des Anciens Combattants Franco-Americans will arrive today and be here through Nov. 24, during which time they will tour local museums and battlefields.

“Two of those coming were members of French resistance networks and both of their families housed downed American airmen who eventually were able to return to England through Spain. They are, of course, now in their 80s,” Kirk told Around Town.

They’ll also visit the 507th PIR Museum at Warner Robbins AFB, the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum near Savannah, and the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning and attend a reception hosted by the French consul in Atlanta at his home.

While in Marietta they’ll be hosted by Harlon and Jo Ann Crimm, Don and Martha Ann Grissom, Mark and Barrye Kirk, Adrian and Anita Kirk and Claire and Ken Kirk.

LOOK for the Marietta History Museum board today to name Kee Carlisle to succeed Harlon Crimm as chairman, with James Hutchins to serve as vice-chair.

Comments
(6)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Just Sayin'....
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November 14, 2012
vgregory - If the Splost notebook was so carefully vetted, why were projects included that had been previously completed. As per the committee that looked at this, the book is not even close to being ready.
@ Just Sayin'
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November 16, 2012
You obviously believe too much of what you read. The committee (ie. the F&T Committee) supported the "book" recommendation by an 11-3 vote.

JUST SAYIN' that the MDJ, curiously, did not cover or print that vote.
vgregory
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November 13, 2012
Dear Editors,

The SPLOST IV draft was posted very publicly in mid-September, giving interested parties time to jump in and argue for improvements. Several communities have done just that. The School Board very publicly announced production of the SPLOST notebook last March and contracted (by public bid!) for a professional to co-ordinate the book development. This was a HUGE improvement over SPLOST II and III which were handled by the now defunct Facilities Group and never unveiled a draft form for the community to comb through. There is always room for improvement, but somebody ought to give the school board credit for lots more sunshine than previous boards. ONE YEAR before a March vote, the community was told to expect a SPLOST IV so they could get involved and advocate. Object to SPLOST funding if you are so inclined, object to some items in the list of projects, but the SPLOST IV process has been the most public ever. Yours truly, Virginia Gregory
anonymous
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November 13, 2012
I too have seen the SPLOST notebook on the county website for a very long period of time. Geezzzzz get it right MDJ, we count on you too much to miss something like this.
shocked again!
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November 13, 2012
Waldrop's comment were despicable, and insulting to every disabled American. Wonder if our veterans, you know the ones we send out on the battlefield to fight for the country, would appreciate the "wheel cart" comment? This poisonous vitriol is typical of our democrat brothers and sisters and I put part of it down to, perhaps, a serious case of ignorance.
Thanks, Mr. Waldrop.
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November 13, 2012
Thank you, Mr. Waldorp. Very outstanding and intelligent comments, as usual. Keep up the good work. You are a true patriot.
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