Tea Party, tax group: We’re not sold on ’14school SPLOST
by Lindsay Field
December 14, 2012 12:54 AM | 2970 views | 11 11 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Despite meeting with Cobb school board members and district staff Tuesday to air their grievances, representatives from the Georgia Tea Party and the Cobb County Taxpayers Association said they can’t support the SPLOST IV vote in March.

“We would love to be able to support an education SPLOST, but we feel that with this one, there’s just too many questions,” said Tom Maloy with the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and board members Scott Sweeney and David Banks met with Maloy and J.D. Van Brink with the Georgia Tea Party and David Staples with the Cobb County Taxpayers Association to discuss objections the two groups have with the 1 percent, five-year sales tax, which is set to go before voters in March.

While the two sides say the meeting was cordial and informative, it did little to change the opposition’s minds.

“I still can’t vote for it at this point,” Staples said Wednesday. Maloy and Lamberton believe the vote should be held on a general election ballot and don’t think a $29.9 million career academy is necessary when many of the same programs are offered in existing high schools.

Staples would have liked the referendum to be on this past November’s ballot when Cobb recorded some of its highest turnout numbers. It would also save the $300,000 cost of a special election.

“We had such a large group showing up at the polls, that would have been an excellent time,” he said.

Maloy said building a career academy rather than hosting the programs at existing schools would put a strain on the already-low general fund, which pays salaries.

“We don’t really need an infrastructure that we can’t maintain, that will drain money from things that we really need like good teachers and maintain structures we currently have,” he said. “If SPLOST draws that away, then we’ll be defeating the purpose of education.”

Hinojosa, who is meeting with district staff on SPLOST IV today, said he thought the meeting went well.

“I know they felt better when they walked away,” he said. “I think they also felt better that they have an open line of communication … I offered to have another meeting with them. They didn’t say they would support (SPLOST IV), but felt better.”

Hinojosa said he would like to have support from both organizations, but couldn’t say if the tax would fail otherwise.

“We can’t worry about things we can’t control,” Hinojosa said. “We just have to get as much information out there as we can.”

Maloy said he’ll go back to the Georgia Tea Party board and talk to them about what he learned at the meeting.

“To be honest, I still think there’s a very strong chance that it will fail,” he said. “I’m not saying that the Georgia Tea Party is going to make it fail. I think it would have a much better chance of passing if the Georgia Tea Party supported it — but if we supported it, it would have to be a much better notebook and a lot of our objections will be overcome.”

“I don’t think these issues are just Georgia Tea Party issues but issues most of the public, if they’re paying attention, will probably object to as well.”
Comments
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Kennesaw Voter
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December 18, 2012
Definitely a NO vote from me. Cobb schools don't need to keep building more and more schools which grows the size of the management/administration. Stop this nonsense...PLEASE!!
Just Wait
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December 14, 2012
Here's an idea. Why don't we just completely ignore the Tea Party and their positions and educate ourselves! Face it, the Tea Party has run it's course and is not relevant any longer.
Just Sayin'....
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December 14, 2012
I never thought I would hear such an articulate response from the Tea Party folks, but I agree. The notebook, in it's current form, is not going to be supported by voters in a special election. The people who turn out to vote will, in large part, be those against the issue. At the present time, the CCSB and the School District staff are unwilling to look at the items in the notebook with an objective eye. There are too many "wants" versus "needs", and while we do value education, we do not value waste.
anonymous
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December 14, 2012
Where is the Georgia Tea Party's consistency on this issue? INCONSISTENT

Did the Georgia Tea Party oppose the 2011 education SPLOST election timing in Cherokee? Fulton? Gwinnett? DeKalb?

NO! Each were "Special Elections" (i.e. held during ODD numbered years).

Does the Georgia Tea Party oppose ALL elections not held in Nov. during even numbered years? Run-offs? Special Elections? Primaries? These all cost money to conduct!

Using David Staples questionable logic, the next election should take place in Nov. 2014, meaning major construction (i.e. Teasley ES, Osborne HS, East Cobb MS, Walton HS) projects would commence during the summer of 2015 at the earliest with occupancy in 2017 or 2018.

Where are my crumpets?

David Staples
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December 14, 2012
Questionable logic? Let's examine that, shall we? At the meeting, we were told that they've known about various issues such as crumbling high school tracks since 2008 and earlier. Why then could this vote not have been held last month, when we knew turnout was going to be high? It's not like they found out about these issues in June. When I asked why we didn't have the vote last month, nobody seemed to know. Not one of them. Furthermore, Mr. Sweeney told me that holding the vote in March will not disenfranchise any voters - that everyone has the opportunity to come out and vote. Using that logic, why not hold the vote between midnight and 7 am? After all, it's not going to disenfranchise any voters, right? Those who really want to come out and vote on this single issue still have the opportunity to do so.

I would rather have a large percentage of the county approve a 1% sales tax than the small percentage that we know will turn out in March, so yes, while I would have preferred that the vote be held last month, my next choice would be to delay, rework the project list, and hold the vote in November 2014. I'm not okay with just spending money because we can and have gotten the approval of maybe 5 percent of the county. Don't get me wrong, there are certainly worthwhile projects on the list. But there are also some that I feel should have never made the final cut. Why not just add a few retractable roof stadiums for our football teams while we're at it? After all, it's just money, right?
AmericanMale
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December 14, 2012
Isn't the career academy a response to Georgia's unfunded mandate to provide such a facility for the new common core curriculum?

I'd like to hear Mr. Maloy's discussion of more specifics that make the notebook project list bad. School principals had input on what they thought critical needs are at their school. If they were valid, they made the initial list. Then, after assigning cost estimates to the issues, the money that SPLOST would be expected to generate was budgeted out. According to what they've said in board meetings, they made sure that each school's top request was addressed in the list.

That seems like a logical approach to me.

They said over $2 billion worth of requests were made. But SPLOST would "only" generate ~$700 million, so a lot of requests won't be able to be addressed.

Mr. Maloy, please be specific!
anonymous
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December 14, 2012
Playbook / Objective - demonize one project comprising a small percentage of the total budget.

The strategy worked with T-SPLOST, but it's an apples/oranges comparison.

With T-SPLOST, they focused on the rail/bus mass transit accounting for roughly 75% of the total T-SPLOST budget.
David Staples
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December 14, 2012
While I can't speak for Mr. Maloy, some of the other issues I have with the list are the number of gyms and theaters on there. Why does every high school need two gyms? I went to Parkview in Gwinnett, which at the time was considered one of the best schools in the state, and we only had one gym. When I asked this at the meeting and suggested that some groups could play outside if it was a matter of a scheduling conflict, they indicated that I can field the complaints from the parents about having kids play outdoors. Seriously? Are we really saying kids are no longer able to play outdoors? Next thing we know, we're going to need to build domed and retractable roof stadiums for our football teams so they too can play in the air conditioning.

If we need to replace the only gymnasium at a high school, let's talk about that. But I question the *need* for 2 gyms per school. Unless we're raising NBA stars here, I'd rather see those funds go towards improving our kids education. Need more classrooms? Fine. Need new textbooks? Fine. Need new science lab equipment or technology to be used as teaching tools? Fine. Let's have that conversation.
Just Sayin'....
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December 14, 2012
I agree with you Mr. Staples. The county list is not one that should fly as is. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and look at what they are asking money for. Some of it is maintaining what we already have....interestingly enough, the only person on the board who ever had the nerve to bring this up was a Democrat, Ms. Bartlett. Now suddenly, Sweeney realizes the general fund can no longer handle maintenance items.

The gym requirements are crazy as are the theater needs. I hate to pick on Lassiter, but drive by there and look at the theater that is being built right now. Everyone is going to want theirs to be that nice and that is going to be expensive. We simply cannot make this a priority when we cannot pay our teachers their full salaries and we are piling more kids in each class room. We also continue to play with academic time in the classroom to save money.

I am perfectly aware of what SPLOST is, but really, do we need all of these things when we cannot pay for the basics. It's like buying a new Mercedes when you have no money for living expenses.
Down Here
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December 14, 2012
@davidstaples:

I think the issue is more with state requirements and weather. Have you ever been in a gym with more than one class at a time?! Students can't even hear! Huge populations of students at high schools means you have to provide more "classrooms" for required classes, even if they ARE gyms.

Gym outside is subject to extremely hot weather (asphalt surfaces can be scorching!), cold weather (ice hazards invite lots of lawyers!) and heavy rain makes mamas call.

Times have changed. Societal expectations have changed. Look at it this way: It's far cheaper than even a single law suit or building another high school.
Luek
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December 14, 2012
The so-called Tea Party actually could be a real political force if they would only stop spending 90% of their resources and time trying to convince everything under heaven that they are not white racists.
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