Bond for new theater will appear on ballot
by Jon Gillooly
jgillooly@mdjonline.com
February 12, 2012 12:03 AM | 4022 views | 37 37 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A rendering of the proposed $9 million, 750-seat multi-purpose auditorium for Marietta High School. <br> Photo special to the MDJ
A rendering of the proposed $9 million, 750-seat multi-purpose auditorium for Marietta High School.
Photo special to the MDJ
slideshow
MARIETTA — With the start of early voting on Monday, city voters can begin to decide whether to approve a $7 million bond that would pay for most of a $9 million, 750-seat multi-purpose auditorium at Marietta High School.

There are other theaters in the area, such as the Cobb Civic Center, Theatre in the Square, Strand Theatre and Mt. Paran Christian School’s theater, but Earl Reece, the Strand’s executive director, said they are insufficient for what the high school needs.

“We only have one Saturday open between now and the end of August, and Theatre in the Square, they end one show and begin another show, so the availability is not there,” Reece said.

There is also the size factor.

“Our stage would not even accommodate the band for a band concert, and the way their arts program is growing,” Reece said. “There’s just not space to accommodate a full band or a full production.”

The Civic Center has a nice feature that allows for sets and scenery drops to be raised and lowered, Reece said.

“That’s a plus, but they’re booked so far in advance, and then seating capacity for us is 531, seating capacity at the Civic Center is 600, capacity at Theatre in the Square is mid 200s. So it would be a scheduling situation. It would be a problem of space as far as what’s on stage and what’s in the audience that would make it just not work at all,” he said.

The only other venue in the area Reece said he could think of is Mt. Paran Christian School’s 577-theater, “and it would be slammed as well.”

Reece compares a stage to a laboratory where students can perfect their skills.

“It would be like a science class not having a lab or an athletic team not having anywhere to pursue what they love to do, and statistics have proven, and I look at the scholarships schools in Cobb County are getting in the arts now, and it’s pretty astronomical, and it would just let that program grow where it should grow,” he said.

Marietta High School principal Leigh Colburn said it’s important to note the proposal is not just to build a stage. The band has outgrown the band room, which would be turned into the school’s dance studio.

“We have almost 200 girls that are enrolled in our dance program, and right now we don’t have a class for that,” Colburn said. “Our chorus has outgrown our chorus room, and so we have two classrooms, and we’re knocking down the wall in between those to have a chorus classroom, and beside the auditorium in the same building will be a new band room.”

Colburn said residents may not realize that a school auditorium is not something that students simply use on weekends.

“It’s something that’s used during the day,” she said. “We teach band every period of the day. We teach dance every period of the day and chorus, so it’s also our classroom space and our drama classes will work in there.”

Another use is as a meeting place for students and faculty.

“If I want to have a class meeting with my ninth grade, I’m not going to take them over to Mount Paran to do that,” Colburn said.

Marilynn Schafer, president of the high school’s PTSA, said her group voted in the fall to support the building.

“We do have some signs out, and we’re going to put some more out this week and some bumper stickers and probably calling people,” Schafer said.

The existing high school is not competitive with surrounding high schools because it lacks an auditorium, she said.

“There’s a small black-box theater, which is very small, and then there’s the gym,” Schafer said. “So if you want to see a play or hear the orchestra or the band, there’s really not a venue there to do that.”

There is also the factor of the system being an International Baccalaureate district, she said.

“The IB program has a big drama component to it, and it seems like if you’re really going to be serious about doing the IB program you ought to have all the pieces to make it work, and the auditorium is one of those,” Schafer said.

The system is counting on voters to approve a $7 million, five-year general obligation bond to pay for most of the building in the March 6 Presidential Preference Primary. The remaining $2 million cost would come from the system’s building fund.

The district proposed SPLOST III in 2008 to pay down its then-$40 million debt to about $400,000 by the end of 2013. However, the recession cut into tax collections, wiping out a $15.16 million line item for debt service. Consequently, the district will be left with an estimated $15.6 million in debt when SPLOST III expires on Dec. 31, 2013.

The city has two outstanding bond issuances on behalf of Marietta City Schools. One is a general obligation bond with a city debt service millage rate of 1.187 mills, with the current principal and interest outstanding on that bond, which matures June 30, at $1.4 million.

The second G.O. bond is being paid by SPLOST III proceeds with $26.7 million in principal and interest outstanding. That bond matures Feb. 1, 2019.

As for the proposed theater bond, the idea is to use SPLOST IV to pay for it were voters to extend the sales tax. If voters don’t approve the sales tax, the millage rate on 1.187 mills will not end June 30, but would continue until FY 2014. Residents would then see an annual property tax increase of about $11 on a $200,000 home from FY2015 to when the bond matures in FY2017, spokesman Thomas Algarin said.
Comments
(37)
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What IS Right!
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February 17, 2012
The Auditorium can and will be used by all students in the high school.

The auditorium would be available to all students and programs in the Marietta City Schools as well as community groups

It has wing and backstage space that is not available at MMS.

The MHS and MMS Bands are too big to even use the stage at MMS- MMS Bands even have to use their gym.

What other high school anywhere in our area has to transport their theatre, their choir, their band to another facility just to provide concerts and performances? NONE

The MHS Arts programs are flourishing- Hundreds of thousand of dollars in scholarship money just last year in the arts for graduating Seniors.

The Athletic Boosters are not paying for their stadiums- upkeep- yes they help- but so would all of the arts boosters help with upkeep, etc.

It is a good time to build- because costs are lower- why cant we quit being petty about the past and realize this is a good time to invest in our community for now and the future?

All of you act like this is going to costs each of you $9 Million- it is a mere few dollars a year for each Household to do something that should be done for a community that deserves it.

Most of you posting are probably not even Marietta Residents- you just hope as Cobb Residents you can try to keep Marietta from moving forward. You enjoy trying to keep the City of Marietta from moving forward so that this "competition" between Marietta and Cobb can continue.

Marietta is a city with respect for the Arts, Respect for Education, Respect for its community members, and Respect for others. Marietta will show that it has class and will vote Yes for this - because it is WHAT IS RIGHT!
MHS Student
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March 06, 2012
Thank you for not being ignorant like everyone else in Marietta who doesn't believe in the future of our city!
another anonymous
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February 16, 2012
Excuse me but a bond referendum is a TAX INCREASE to fund a specific government project.

Since when does building a theater justify raising taxes yet again in these economic times?

We are already having to pay off the high school bond referendum tax that was passed a decade ago. It's not been paid back yet so we are already paying more taxes for this bond and the interest on our debt... it never ends. I would never vote yes to another bond until the first one was paid back.

Marietta already has a SPLOST sales tax to build specific capital outlay projects along with other government taxes from all levels.

Plan ahead why don't you?
anonymous
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February 16, 2012
Some of these comments that are full of hate and vitriol are part of the problem. Those who shout, "NO MORE TAXES" are apparently not paying attention enough to see that it is a BOND REFERENDUM, not a tax hike. That in and of itself shows that you haven't even bothered to look into this project.

If you wonder why decisions are made on Board level contrary to what the "public" wants, this feeds into why that happens. When people automatically take a stand of "hell no" without actually vetting the project, of course the Board and the Administration is going to do what THEY THINK is best because the public isn't invested in the system, nor cares enough to actually find out the truth.

The comment below of "...in the 60's" is fairly ignorant. I went to MHS in the 80's and I can tell you it was outdated, worn, inadequate and in bad need of repair THEN. While it has value and use, and is a treasure in its own right, it certainly does not meet the needs of Marietta High School. My only beef is that the BOE has caved to the court of public opinion and reduced the seating capacity. If you say you need 900 - then you need 900. Take a position and defend it!

For those who say "use The Strand, use The Strand", you obviously don't have a clue either. The Strand, while being a non-profit, needs to generate income to support itself, and it's not going to make money on the schools system. Plus, why should kids and parents have to constantly traipse all over the city just to see a play, hear a concert, go to a meeting, etc...? Have you actually compared the seating at The Strand to the MMS Auditorium??? Have you compared the sound? Have you seen the lack of storage?

For those of you who say, "they went over budget on the school"! Well, I have to agree. They did go over budget. But just a reality check here....those board members AREN'T ON THE BOARD as a board anymore. You wanna whine - go whine at them. You wanna whine, go find THAT Superintendent. Get over it. Thank gosh for the veteran observer who has a memory past the end of his/her nose to remember the truth of what happened.

We all know that the MCS BOE doesn't always make sound and vetted decisions, (i.e., the new graduation requirement...ridiculous), however, this is one decision that is a move in the right direction. This auditorium is needed - and like yesterday - and at 900 seats - no less. If some of you nay-sayers are grant writers, step up and help find private funding and quitcherbitchin.

I will vote a big YES, and will encourage everyone I know to do the same.
No Place for Hate
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February 15, 2012
I understand that you may be upset that 9 million dollars of your tax dollars may go to a facility for one school, but the conclusions that you jump to are absolutely outrageous. Arts help students who feel at home surrounded by people who share their interests, and for you to lash out and make vague statements about every theater person you have ever met (which I bet is practically zero) is just rude. Theater helps students in public communications, broadcasting, memorization, critical thinking skills, research, problem solving, courage, and it develops empathy which you obviously seem to lack. Those who invest their lives in theater make great sacrifices for a career and an art form they are truly passionate about, and you should think twice before making such outlandish comments. Think twice before you make yourself look so stupid again. It's for your own good. Good day, sir.
anonymous
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February 15, 2012
Come up with the 9 mil yourself then through private grants. Nobody will complain if you do that. You just want everyone else to pay for your cat-fancy projects.

Nobody else wants to fund this stupidity. Do it yourself.
VFP42
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February 14, 2012
If we will really start our spending at $7.15 million for a new theater for high school children, we should be sure and spend more for a restaurant in which our young aspiring actors can practice their serving skills so they can get jobs. Maybe we should buy a few couches on which they could practice for casting calls. And why not get some poles and hypodermic needles for the ones who turn to "dancing" to pay the bills, too!

What a waste of taxpayer money for something that hardly anybody makes a living at. The football booster club pays for stadiums. Where is the thespian booster club to pay for this theater?

If local parents think they have the next Angelina Jolie on their hands, please by all means pay to send your child to that arts school in Atlanta that actually does turn out a few people who make careers out of acting. Just don't force me to waste more of my money on your children's trivial pursuits.

Let's face it, the only thing most children learn from high school acting class is that they are gay. There is nothing wrong with them being gay, but can't they just find out when they get to college?

anonymous
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February 14, 2012
Bravo! I wish to subscribe to your newsletter, sir.
Otaclem
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February 14, 2012
Oh boy, the predictable caterwauling and hate speach accusations your comments will engender are going to be fun.

But, there is nothing like the truth to stir 'em up.
No more taxes!
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February 14, 2012
The School Board needs to utilize it's current facilities (the big auditorium at the middle school) or utilize the the current funding sources available (They get funding from state taxes, federal taxes, local taxes, SPLOST sales taxes, the current local bond taxes that has not yet been paid off and yes revenue the board receives even from our car taxes!)

If this was such an urgent issue when the last SPLOST sales tax was passed why didn't they appropriate money for this project. OR Mabey this project just became urgent. In any case, use what you have.

During the most severe economic decline since the great depression, the School Board just like it's citizens needs to tighten it's belt and quit asking for more, more, more...

You need to operate on the budget your currently have and save for the extras like a theater.

Tax no more
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February 15, 2012
I agree this excessive tax and spend mentality must change. You can't just keep adding on more taxes. It's always an urgent situation but excuse me... a theater is not urgent. A leaky roof, a flooded building or a safety issue, etc... YES is urgent.

Make these extras such as a theater a priority. SAVE and BUDGET the existing taxes and capital outlay budget you have for it! Lord knows, we are taxed by the locals, the state, and the feds for our schools. Use what you have.
A Taxpayer
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February 13, 2012
Another waste of money. I'm voting "NO."
anonymous
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February 13, 2012
Thanks go to the dwindling number of taxpayers of and remaining profitable businesses within the City of Marietta who will finance this fine structure.

The rest of us in the north metro will get to enjoy this facility at greatly discounted rates for years to come, thanks to you.

NO: You Know Nothing
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February 13, 2012
Lip service, whoever you are. I have plenty of experience with MCS and the IB Programme. Superficial lip service.

Following the above advice, I will be voting early and as often as I am allowed.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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February 13, 2012
Utilize The Strand!
YESYESYES1
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February 13, 2012
Thank you for making the ARTS and our children a priority in MCS!!
Realest
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February 13, 2012
I enjoy the Arts but I also think they should be able to pay for themself. If the City/School Board wants this theater let them raise the money other ways then with tax payers money. The kids will do just as well without it as they do with it. So many places in Cobb County for them to use at a much lower cost.
Can't Believe
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February 13, 2012
To the "NO" voters, not knowing what you don't know is the worse kind of ignorance. Get informed.
Whitlock30064
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February 13, 2012
This is a total waste of tax payer money. They went over budget on a school that was designed without an auditorium or football stadium. Well, I guess they will just have to live with those consequences. I'll be voting no.
So...
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February 13, 2012
When Marietta went over budget, ($52M) to build this HS, did they not plan an auditorium that was appropriate for the size of the school? Nine more million dollars??? Really?
Veteran Observer
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February 13, 2012
The high school was never over budget! It was redesigned and delayed a year to handle a 20% increase in students in the system after the olympics! There was never a theater in the budget, because the city council was going to use the car rental tax(which former mayor Joe Mack Wilson had set aside for a performing arts facility in Marietta). Councilman Goldstein was opposed to it and he got the council to table the vote and it was never voted on! The county then came in and got the money for the Galleria performing arts center from the council and Marietta lost the theater! The school board has waited until the debt has been paid down to a reasonable level from the high school and the new Sawyer Road elementary which was built to handle the same huge increase in students to bring this to the public. It is a worthy project and deserves a yes vote!
NO NO NO
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February 12, 2012
This is the most inopportune time to be asking for this. If you want to propose this in good economic times that would be different.

NO
Good question
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February 12, 2012
The article sites the size of all manner of auditoriums and theaters....but strangely, no mention of the auditorium at the Middle school, the former high school until 2001. Why is that? How many seats does it have?
Otaclem
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February 12, 2012
I have found that curious also, since I recall it used for all classes, school meetings when I went to MHS in the '60s. Seemed it had seating for something just short of 800/900. I could be wrong on the size but no one in authority has spoken about this. If the size is as I remember, then it's a matter of upgrades. Or do "they" just want a NEW facility.

I believe arts, band, etc are very important but a state of the art facility doesn't necessarily improve anything but egos.

What say you MHS principal and Marietta school board?
NGU
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February 13, 2012
The last time I looked, the middle school auditorium was at THE MIDDLE SCHOOL!!! MHS needs an auditorium. I'll vote YES today.
to Otaclem
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February 13, 2012
IF you graduated in the mid 60's, this short 3 year bond will not cost you a dime. If you do not pay school taxes, you do not pay on the bond, but you can still vote.

makes no sense, i know..
Otaclem
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February 14, 2012
Your implication is based on half knowledge and it makes plenty of sense, SINCE, I paid school taxes from 1966 until 2 years ago yet I have no children. Besides your comment doesn't address anything except your resentment about tax liability not about whether the facility is needed or affordable, etc.
robbieh
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February 12, 2012
necessity is the mother of invention.



let the students create with what they have.

if i read the marietta high school website right, the combined average of our students' 2011 SAT scores is lower than combined national average 2011 SAT scores.

need for a theater makes the agenda??
In the business
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February 12, 2012
I have been in the arts and entertainment industry for over 15 years and I do believe arts is a very important part of education that is often overlooked or pushed to the bottom of the priority list. However, $9,000,000 for an auditorium to be used by one high school program is certainly not what I would call a smart investment. That amount or perhaps even more being used to build a facility that can be utilized by multiple schools in the district makes more sense. Sure that can be a logistical issue, but money is tight these days and all students in Marietta and Cobb County deserve to have a nice facility as well don't they? Just an opinion...
No Way!
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February 12, 2012
Vote NO and vote often. This theater is a huge waste of public resources.
mickierae
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February 12, 2012
I agree completely. I assume this will be voted on by voters in the City of Marietta only but Marietta and all of Cobb need parks open to all citizens rather than an auditorium limited to a few hundred students at the most. $9,000,000 could buy a lot of park land!
Arts are Important
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February 12, 2012
Many of these opinions reflect why the South is behind in schooling. I have lived here over 30 years but grew up in the Midwest. We would never had a second thought of building anything other than a first class theater for our kids. Schools were number one whether for Arts, Arithmetic or Auto Shop. It's sad to see the posting from people who don't have any problem giving their kids a second class school environment.
Misleading Again
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February 12, 2012
Meet with the 9th grade in the gym. You didn't care about the arts when you built the school, but you sure cared about sports. And drama is NOT a big part of the IB program; most students do not elect to take drama as their fine arts unless forced to do so.

If you want to be "competitive," an auditorium is the least of your worries. The district wastes money on frivolous expenditures and could trim lots of fat at the Central Office. My vote is now, and will always be, no.
you know nothing
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February 13, 2012
The ARTS(including drama) IS a BIG part of the IB Program. I know because I have 3 children that attend MHS THIS YEAR!!!
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