On Feb. 3, the Cobb County Board of Education voted unanimously to purchase 35 acres of property along Terrell Mill road for the relocation of Brumby Elementary school. The $9.4 million price tag for this land is being paid for with our tax dollars via SPLOST IV.
No one disagrees with the need to improve Brumby. The school is significantly overcrowded, relying on trailers to accommodate extra children. However, we deserve to know our tax dollars are being spent wisely.
Now the math. The school board’s plan, as outlined by Post 6 school board representative Scott Sweeney, involves buying 35 acres. The required acreage to build a school of this size is 15 acres. The school board has agreed to pay $9.4 million, which works out to roughly $269,000 per acre, or approximately $4 million for 15 acres.
So, why has the school board agreed to overpay by $5.4 million? Our children are missing weeks of school due to furlough days. We can’t pay our teachers, but we can buy extra property we don’t need?
Surely the school board has a plan for that extra 20 acres they’re buying. When asked, Mr. Sweeney declined to answer questions about plans for the additional 20 acres, stating he is “unable to discuss during due diligence.”
Not coincidentally, it takes 20 acres to build a middle school, and East Cobb Middle is next on the list of SPLOST projects. Common sense leads one to conclude that the school board plans to rebuild East Cobb Middle on the same property along with Brumby Elementary. Why the secrecy?
Perhaps because the school board doesn’t want the residents of East Cobb to know what is about to hit them. The Terrell Mill property is located on a major commuter thoroughfare that funnels traffic to I-75. Traffic is extremely heavy in the morning and early evening. The DOT re-engineered this stretch of road only a few years ago to accommodate heavy use.
The State of Georgia Guideline for Educational Facility Site Selection recommends any new school site be accessible from two different roads. However, this property has only one access point, which will further snarl traffic once hundreds of additional cars and buses are added twice daily.
If you think traffic will be bad with one school, now picture a 25 mph school zone running from 7:20 a.m.-7:50 a.m. for the elementary school and again from 8:15 a.m.-8:45 a.m. for the middle school, all colliding with morning rush hour traffic.
Why not look into more fiscally responsible solutions, like expanding Brumby at its current location? It’s a lot cheaper to remodel than rebuild. There are several acres of vacant property adjacent to the current school which can be purchased for far less than $9.4 million, which would leave additional money to improve the school. Or, look for the right size parcel of land, i.e., 15 acres.
If local officials can find 60 acres to build a baseball stadium, surely they can find 15 acres to build an elementary school.
If it was your checkbook, would you spend twice as much as you need?
Well, it is your checkbook, and the school board has the pen.