SMYRNA — The prevalent message at District 4 Commissioner Lisa Cupid’s town hall was the need for the board to hear from Cobb residents.
The meeting lasted just over two hours Thursday at the Windy Hill Community Center in Smyrna. During her presentation, Cupid stressed the importance of paying attention to posted zoning and land use notices, upcoming budget meetings and awareness of a new 1% countywide Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that voters could potentially approve next year. If approved, collections would begin in 2022.
The board will vote on Chairman Mike Boyce’s proposed budget for 2020 in July. There will be three public hearings prior to the vote on July 9 at 9 a.m., July 16 at 6:30 p.m. and July 23 at 7 p.m. Cupid strongly urged residents not to wait until the final meeting to get involved as the vote could take place that night. The meetings will be available via live stream for those who cannot attend in person, and she urged people to email not just her but the entire board with feedback.
Proposed adjustments to the budget include the elimination of senior fees and a 4% merit/cost-of-living raise for county employees, with the exception of public safety personnel, who will receive a 7% bump.
Cupid also encouraged participation in the upcoming census.
“With your presence comes dollars, and we will be missing out on federal dollars that are associated with population count if we do not make sure we participate in this,” Cupid said.
“And it may not be census-driven, but it is a key indicator of how important data is: our district has been targeted a lot for industrial development. I went to the Atlanta Regional Commission asking for data for workforce development, just wanting to get a sense of what is going on in district four, and found out that our number one industry in district four is not industrial development. It is actually health and medical services. We can be a health and medical service hub for this county and expand that industry. But if you don’t know your data, you could be developing in a way that is not reflective of where your true opportunities and activities are.”
Cupid also said she has “great concern” about a new 1% sales tax.
In what she described as a “moment of candor,” Cupid told the audience, “When you take a look at that 2022 SPLOST and you see items on there that you don’t think should compel you to vote for that 2022 SPLOST, I want you to ask the hard questions; because to me, I just don’t think that we should be putting our maintenance in that extra penny you’re paying.”
After the meeting, Cupid spoke with the MDJ to explain her concerns further.
“Maintenance is not supposed to be covered in the SPLOST, but when your buildings deteriorate to a certain extent, then you have to start replacing things and building new things. If you maintained it, it would have been a lesser cost. If you look at our capital maintenance budget, it is not funded where it should be. We are trying to put more resources into that, but I’m afraid that the public is going to become very much aware of how far behind we are when they see the SPLOST book and they don’t see any transformative projects for their communities. When they see, just basically, replacement of assets that should have been addressed,” she said. “In Cobb County we take a lot of pride in our lower millage rate, but it just puts us at risk.”
Additionally, employees from various departments gave presentations on county projects. Jimmy Gisi, director of Cobb PARKS, displayed the plans for the county’s first all-inclusive playground, which will be built at the Windy Hill Community Center thanks to a $200,000 grant from PlayCore. The entire platform will be wheelchair-accessible and there will be a wheelchair swing. The ground surface will be poured rubber, rather than mulch. Gisi hopes to have a ribbon-cutting in the fall.
CobbLinc will be adding Sunday service in September, an announcement that was met with applause, and they are making improvements to existing bus schedules.
Cupid has announced her intention to challenge Boyce in 2020 for the chair position.