Some have taken issue with the concession stand rebuilds. At a recent meeting hosted by “FACE It Cobb,” (a parent group concerned about school funding issues), this was addressed. A number of bathrooms/concession stands are currently inaccessible to disabled individuals. In our incredibly litigious society, this should be changed now before a lawsuit costs the taxpayers more money.
The Cobb Taxpayers Association has complained about the implementation of a “Career Academy.” Lately our society has become insistent that every high-school graduate attend a four-year university. This has created a depressingly large number of unemployed college graduates. Meanwhile many companies go begging for skilled labor and welders make $50 an hour. Think about your objection to skilled trades being taught in our schools, the next time you pay an electrician.
Our state legislators will tell you that they are increasing funds for education. That is not entirely accurate. Schools are getting more money due to increased enrollment. State funding “per student” has actually decreased. In addition, federal funds for education are decreasing also, but not the unfunded mandates. Homeowners make up the difference with our property taxes.
The other argument is why gyms are being built rather than teachers being hired? By state law a SPLOST can’t be used for salaries, or even transportation or textbook costs. It would be great to see that money go to decrease class sizes, but it’s not allowed.
To those who say projects were added to fill the total expected tax revenue, I have to say that I used to think the same thing. Until I found out that only 20 percent of suggested projects were accepted. It would be wonderful to have a “split-penny” SPLOST as many critics want. But until one actually exists, roofs are still leaking and HVAC units still need to be replaced.
I often hear the refrain that the “Special” in SPLOST is not special any more since we renew it every four years. One-third of our schools are over 45 years old. If the buildings didn’t age, I gather we wouldn’t need money to keep repairing and replacing them. And in the last 10 years, 700 trailers have been eliminated through SPLOST.
Should the school system cut costs before asking for a SPLOST? Cobb is the second largest school system in the state, but has one of the lowest administration costs of any system. I’m sure we can find waste, but if SPLOST doesn’t pass, these capital projects would have to be paid out of the general budget, which already is at an $80 million deficit. With 90 percent of that budget being personnel, there is nowhere else to find money without letting hundreds of teachers go, along with those administrators. So if you vote for SPLOST you actually are saving teachers’ jobs.
Cobb is also one of the largest school systems that is debt free. If SPLOST doesn’t pass, bonds will have to be issued or reserves used. Property taxes will rise. The SPLOST, however, is a sales tax. Rather than constantly relying on property owners alone to foot the bill for education, the continuation of this penny consumption tax will hit non-residents who work, shop and travel through Cobb; renters; and seniors over 62 who don’t pay any education property tax at all. The burden is spread more widely and fairly. As a property owner I’m for it.
Are there some projects I personally don’t like? Sure, just like everyone. But I feel we should stop trying to get a list that 100 percent of the citizens approve (never likely) and vote on one that is reasonable and badly needed.
JoEllen Smith is an education activist in East Cobb and a volunteer for “EmpowerED Cobb.”