The request was made by the board’s Facility and Technologies Committee during its February meeting. This group oversees SPLOST-related projects and funding.
Committee Chair Curt Johnston said it came up while the group was talking about the SPLOST III across-the-board cuts instituted shortly after collections for the special tax initiative began in 2009 and when they were asking how much money was left in the contingency fund.
“Wallace Coopwood came up with the idea that if we have the extra money, the most important place we could spend it is in safety and security,” Johnston said. “We certainly agreed with that.”
“Schools are just so vulnerable,” Coopwood said. “It’s just the right thing to do. We say we are a first-class district and ought to put our kids’ safety and security first.”
Johnston said he hasn’t heard any concerns from the Cobb community, but following the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shootings late last year, safety and security have been on everyone’s minds.
“We’ve been blessed not to have to deal with it in Cobb County, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in Cobb County,” he said.
Chris Ragsdale, whose department handles SPLOST projects, agreed.
“In today’s environment with everything that’s happened, surveillance and safety is everyone’s top priority in schools,” Ragsdale said. “They wanted to do everything they could to get an immediate resolution.”
Restoration of this budget item would be only the third time the district has decided to restore a cost on a SPLOST III item.
The others were computer work stations and textbooks. Ragsdale said he couldn’t recall the exact costs for each.
The cameras would be paid for out of the district’s SPLOST III contingency fund, which will sit at around $3.4 million if other budget items are approved on Thursday.
The purpose of the purchase was to install digital surveillance cameras in all 67 of Cobb’s elementary schools and replace analog cameras in the 16 high schools.
With the $1 million cut, the district wasn’t able to start the high school replacements, Ragsdale said.
There are approximately 64 cameras in every high school.
The restoration of this project to its original cost should allow the district to replace all cameras, but if not, surveillance cameras are part of SPLOST IV as well, and Ragsdale said it could roll over into that.
The item on the fourth referendum was needed to replace surveillance cameras in middle schools.
Board Chair Randy Scamihorn said he has not heard any push back or support from other board members, but he doesn’t anticipate its failing.
“(Student safety is) an issue that tugs at the heart as well as the pocketbook,” he said. “I lean towards it passing but can’t speak to the inclinations of the board.”
Other items the board will consider approving include purchasing $7.5 million in new math resources for all grades, $2.9 million in construction-related projects at various elementary schools and a $50,000 loan from Wheeler High School for band uniforms.
All but the band uniforms would be purchased with SPLOST III funds.
The only item that drew a lot of questions from the board members during their work session last week was the math materials purchase.
“My concern is always are we spending our money wisely?” Scamihorn said. “I wouldn’t second guess our staff because overall they do a good job, but I’m always concerned if we’re making the right decision, whether it’s facilities, curriculum and instruction or textbooks.”
The board was supposed to be approving a tentative budget for the fiscal year 2014, but that was postponed until Monday at 1 p.m. after members met for nearly four hours this week to figure out better ways to resolve the $86.4 million shortfall.
The Thursday night meeting will begin at 7 p.m. with public comments. It will be held in the central office boardroom at 514 Glover St. in Marietta.
For a detailed copy of the agenda, visit cobbk12.org.