The SPLOST IV referendum is scheduled March 19. The one-percent school-funding measure will be the only item on the ballot that day and is projected to collect around $718 million for Cobb and $54 million for Marietta between 2014 and 2018.
SPLOSTs and bond referendums are nearly always controversial in Cobb. The 2011 county road SPLOST passed by a microscopic 79-vote margin out of 43,000 votes cast, for example. And angry voters blew last summer’s Transportation-SPLOST proposal out of the water by a 69-31 percent margin.
SO DOES the looming budget deficit mean some combination of more layoffs, bigger class sizes and more furlough days, as the system has experienced in the past several budget years? It’s too early to say for sure, but keep in mind that the system spends 90 percent of its budget on personnel costs, and that 70 percent of that budget represents instructional employees. In other words, there are not many other places to cut.
As for other revenue sources, the system is already just under the state-mandated 20-mill max for property-tax levies. The state also mandates that school systems must operate under a balanced budget.
School and other elected officials have always expected that there would be lean budgetary years from time to time, but it has been decades since they have had to contend with year after year after year of budget hits, thanks to an economy that refuses to come out of its prolonged slump.
And not only has the local tax digest been hard hit in recent years, the Cobb system (and its counterparts in Marietta and around the state) have also had to survive deep cuts in the funding they receive from the state. Cobb, for example, has had to swallow $353 million in austerity cuts since 2003 (and Marietta Schools $27 million). There’s little expectation that this year’s Legislature will be any more forthcoming.
THE COBB SYSTEM dipped into its reserve fund to the tune of $28 million to help balance the FY13 budget, so don’t be surprised to see the school board and new Chairman Randy Scamihorn turn to that source to help this time around as well. Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa says not to expect staff suggestions on how to close the gap until late March — or in other words, after the SPLOST referendum. The board has until June 30 to pass the budget.
If there’s a speck of sunlight in the situation, it’s the fact that the district is debt-free, thanks to its prior SPLOSTs.
MEANWHILE, longtime SPLOST foe Lance Lamberton of Austell is gearing up for another such fight. The Cobb Taxpayers Association, of which he is president, plans to meet at noon Jan. 26 at the House of Lu, 89 Cherokee St. in Marietta (directly behind the Strand Theatre) to plot strategy.
AN ATLANTA SOURCE who has seen private polling done on behalf of U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who’s on shaky ground with many conservatives — most recently for going along with President Obama on his “fiscal cliff” vote — describes the polls numbers as “abysmal” for Chambliss.
The senator must face voters next year and, as things stand at present, is expected to draw strong Republican opposition. U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) is already known to be considering such a run. Another possible Chambliss foe might be former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who lost a runoff for the GOP gubernatorial nomination to Nathan Deal in 2010.
YET THE MOST potentially arduous rival Chambliss might face next year is one who has never held elective office: Herman Cain. The former presidential candidate ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2004, coming in third in the GOP primary that year behind eventual winner Johnny Isakson and Mac Collins for the right to succeed the retiring Zell Miller.
Yes, Cain on Monday will take over one of the most coveted radio slots in the country, that filled by longtime “Talkmaster” Neal Boortz on WSB-Atlanta. But not only might trying to fill the shoes of such a legendary broadcaster prove hard to do; it’s also true that if Cain still has “political fever,” the time to run is when voters’ memories of him are still fresh
STATE Sen.-elect Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) was selected as one of four deputy Senate whips for the new legislative session that started Monday by Majority Whip Cecil Staton (R-Macon). Deputy whips help handle the daily administrative duties within the caucus.
And on the House side, state Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) was named by Majority Whip Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta) as one of 13 deputy House whips.
IMMIGRATION activist D.A. King has scheduled a pair of rallies on Marietta Square Tuesday and Feb. 26 to coincide with the Cobb Commission’s upcoming vote on whether to require contractors and subcontractors who do business with the county to swear that they have filed an application to become certified under the federal IMAGE program.
That program ensures that workers hired are in the country legally — but is quietly opposed by some in the local business community. East Cobb Commissioners Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell are expected to vote for it. Chairman Tim Lee and new Commissioner Lisa Cupid have not disclosed how they will vote, but Lee, who has close ties to the Cobb Chamber, is less than enthusiastic about it. Northwest Commissioner Helen Goreham, believed to be the swing vote on the question, sounded pro-IMAGE last week. Is she still?
Both rallies will run from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on the corner nearest the Cobb Government Building on Cherokee Street.
The commission will be holding public hearings on the proposed change both evenings, and will vote on the measure Feb. 26.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Should the Cobb commission take an easy step to ensure that the companies it does business with are not hiring those in this country illegally?
ATTENDEES can expect some lively stories — most of them true — about lawyers and judges when six Cobb lawyers — each boasting at least 60 years of membership in the State Bar of Georgia — are honored Thursday at a noon luncheon at Willie Rae’s restaurant on Marietta Square by the Solo/Small Firm section of The Cobb Bar Association.
Being feted are former Georgia Supreme Court Justice G. Conley Ingram, Cobb Superior Court Senior Judge Watson White and attorneys Fred Bentley Sr., Ray Gary Sr., Raymond Reed and Talmadge Woodman.
Meal cost (except for the honorees) is $14 per person. RSVP to Chandler Bridges at cblawyer@ bellsouth.net.
THE COBB LANDMARKS & HISTORICAL SOCIETY plans its annual meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at The Whitlock Inn, 57 Whitlock Ave., and the Anderson House (65 Whitlock Ave.) next door. The business meeting, presentation of awards and election of new officers to succeed Chairwoman Rose Wing for 2013 will take place at the first location, followed by a reception at the CLHS headquarters next door, reports director Nancy Gadberry.
A HANDFUL OF TICKETS remain for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s 71st annual dinner next Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Cobb Galleria Centre. Entertainment will be by Marietta band “PRIME.” For more go to www.cobbchamber.org/annualdinner. ...
Speaking of the Chamber, WellStar President and CEO Reynold Jennings will be guest speaker at February’s First Monday Breakfast on Feb. 4 at the same location.
PERFORMANCES CONTINUE tonight and tomorrow at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre on Marietta Square of the play “Steel Magnolias” featuring a home-grown cast of Cobb Countians. The ensemble case features Marietta “magnolias” Cassandra Buckalew, Holly Comer, Cassi Costoulas, Faye DiMassimo, Kim Gresh and Dianne Weeks, according to director Earl Reece.
Tickets can be purchased at the Strand box office or online at www.earlsmithstrand.org.
SCREEN ALERT: The Ceremonial Courtroom at the new Cobb Superior Court Building was used to film a scene for a show in the TV series “The Following,””— starring Kevin Bacon — which premieres at 9 Monday on the Fox Network.
And yes, ladies, Bacon was there for the filming.