Marietta City Schools' SPLOST project list tops $55M
by Lindsay Field
February 17, 2013 12:35 AM | 3303 views | 11 11 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff/Jennifer Hall
Staff/Jennifer Hall
MARIETTA — If Cobb voters approve SPLOST IV on March 19, Marietta City Schools should see a payoff of the district’s $15.2 million debt, along with more than $5 million in upgrades to Northcutt Stadium.

Marietta’s School Board approved putting its $55 million project list before voters in November with a 6-1 vote. Newcomer Brett Bittner opposed it.

The city school district will receive approximately 7 percent of the overall collections in the 1 cent sales tax between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2018, if voters give a thumbs up in March.

Early voting starts on Feb. 25.

Aside from renovating the football stadium and wiping out the debt, $3 million of which is a bond for the Marietta High School auditorium still under construction, Marietta’s SPLOST IV notebook includes:

* Upgrades to technology at a cost of $16.3 million;

* About $14 million in other construction, modifications, renovations and equipment; and

* $2 million for student transportation.

More specifically, the district is looking to buy $407,000 worth of Drivers Education cars and putting $532,000 towards the food and nutrition program, $250,000 for audits, legal and professional reviews and $460,000 for copy machines.

Board Chair Randy Weiner said upgrades to Northcutt Stadium, which opened in 1940, will include adding seating to the home and visitor sides and parking, installing new plumbing, a PA system, electrical and lighting, renovating restrooms and locker rooms and expanding the press box, the Blue Devil Room and video platform.

One Marietta parent who has three children in the system right now and one that recently graduated said she believes the stadium upgrades are needed as opposed to building a new stadium.

“To take the beauty of the existing stadium and upgrade it to the standards that we need is what we need to do,” Beth Nugent said. “It’s such a central focus point in our city and school community.”

Nugent said the stadium is used by multiple sports programs and age groups.

But in talking with neighbors and other parents, she still thinks the community is split on whether the upgrades are needed at Northcutt Stadium.

The case for SPLOST

Nugent said she supports the SPLOST IV list as a whole because of what it will provide for the technology piece of the district and tries to remind voters that it’s a continuation of something they are already paying, not a new tax.

“It’s a sales tax versus a property tax so that means we’re sharing it with all the people who come to Marietta, from the mall to downtown Marietta and we’re taking advantage of that and allowing that to improve our school systems,” she said.

She believes the concerns from those opposing it comes down to their not being educated enough about the referendum.

“Probably 80 percent of the people who objected to it at the beginning, when you make them aware of what it’s doing and the impact, they are OK with it,” she said.

Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck is doing her best to help fill that void where voters may not be up to date on what SPLOST IV means and will provide to her schools.

“I have had opportunities to meet with parents, community members and staff at my Coffee Talk outreach meetings, PTAs, and faculty meetings,” she said.

Lembeck said she believes it’s important for the referendum to pass because 85 percent of their budget is dedicated to salary and benefits, leaving little funding for capital projects.

“There are school system needs that are unable to be met otherwise,” she said.

In order to let Marietta City voters know what’s on their project list, the district has a SPLOST IV flyer, provides facts on the website and links to other documents pertaining to the initiative.

“The same information is also sent out in @home, Marietta City Schools Community News and on Facebook,” she said.

The case against

Not everyone is in favor of SPLOST IV passing, though, whether it’s for Marietta or Cobb schools.

Members of both the Cobb County Taxpayers Association and Georgia Tea Party have been very outspoken critics.

J.D. Van Brink with the Georgia Tea Party said the group opposes the SPLOST IV process, no matter what district is creating a project list.

“We believe that we should be determining our needs first, then determining the cost and pay for it,” he said. “The current process works backwards.”

Lance Lamberton of the Taxpayers Association said he thinks, under the current system, school districts are encouraged to “put the cart before the horse.”

Like Van Brink, his organization thinks the list should be created first, then the school districts should ask for the funding, not the other way around.

Van Brink did say he agrees that there are a lot of good things on each project list and that there’s no doubt that there are needs in both Marietta and Cobb.

“We aren’t accusing anyone of corruption or incompetence but believe the process needs to be fixed,” Van Brink said.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 17, 2013
Spending $6Million on Northcutt Is like Buying a new dress for an old pig
Be Careful
February 17, 2013
The SPLOST is NOT the best answer.

The best answer is for the school board to learn to live within it's budget and cut unneeded costs.

They are in the habit of coming to us citizens asking for more and more and more money.

Let's see them make a REAL attempt at fiscal responsibility, and then I'd consider voting for a SPLOST.

Someone posted, oh this is great, we'll get out of debt, this is a no brainer.

Why are we in debt in the first place?

If things don't change, we will be in debt again.

Stop thinking short term, and start thinking long term. If not, we are doomed to repeat this every few years as they ask for SPLOST after SPLOST after SPLOST.

What do the first 2 letters in SPLOST stand for?

"SPecial". Well, it ain't "special" if they plan on it year after year to prop up their inflated irresponsible budget.
right on
February 18, 2013
that's right splost is not the best answer - let's have them raise our property taxes to the limit only to have our property values diminish because of dwindling school conditions.
Pro Splost Mom
February 18, 2013
To: Be Careful

The CCSD has to cut almost $80 million in thier budget for this coming school year. Mind you that they have had to cut 10s of millions of dollars each year for the past 4 - 6 years. So - HOW can they live within their means when the SPLOST is paying for things like new HVAC systems, new flooring, replacement windows, parking lot paving and other necessities that are not covered with our property tax payer dollars? Please educate yourself on the SPLOST process and how it affects the schools where you live.
@ Be Careful
February 18, 2013
The Marietta City School system is in debt because voters elected to fund a bond to build the Marietta High theater.

Actually, the first two letters in SPLOST stand for Special Purpose - One of the special purposes of the proposed SPLOST is to render the Marietta School System debt free.

No interest payments means greater funding can be allocated to needed projects rather than financing expenses.
Be Careful
February 18, 2013
Dear "right on" and "pro splost Mom",

Vote for SPLOST, or raise property taxes. Either way it's additional tax coming out of our pockets.

I understand that they have cut money out of the budget in the past.

But the project list is fantasy.

Last year they wanted to spend $700,000 to renovate the restrooms/concession stand at Allatoona Stadium. That building is less than 5 years old and in perfect condition (I know, I've used those facilities).

Why on earth spend $700,000 on it? That is a huge waste of money, a fiscally irresponsible decision. One of many. Why are they so quick to flush hundreds of thousands of dollars down the toilet on unneeded projects?

They want to spend over a quarter million dollars to have an outside company come in and do an audit on their educations programs. Really? Isn't there someone in HQ that can do that? If not, why are they working for the board of education if they can't make those evaluations?

More wasted money.

Throwing more money at fiscal irresponsibility doesn't address the root problem.

And if we continue to grant them millions in SPLOSTS every couple of years, they will NEVER learn and keep taking money from us.
to Be Careful
February 19, 2013
If you were using the facilities at Allatoona HS then you were not in Marietta. Northcutt Stadium is the Marietta High School stadium and it is over 70 years old and the plumbing and other items definitely need renovating. This article is about the Marietta School System's list of items. Please educated yourself regarding the details of what you are talking about in your comments.
JR in Mableton
February 17, 2013
Mr. Van Brick of the Georgia Tea Party is recycling his T-SPLOST argument to oppose the E-SPLOST. THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO!

Politicians selected the T-SPLOST projects. The school principals identified $2B in maintenance and improvement projects that were needed. The list was then reduced to the project list we will be approving in March. It was a needs-based process.

Don't forget this is the same Tea Party that complained about "the process" and promised a Plan B during the T-SPLOST debate. To date, there is no Plan B, and they are still complaining about the process.

The Tea Party are truly CAVE people....Citizens Against Virtually Everything. It might help the discussion if they would take the time to educate themselves and not recycle their T-SPLOST playbook.

So, can someone from the Tea Party actually propose a Plan B for the E-SPLOST? The Plan B is called DEBT! So much for the Tea Party being fiscal conservatives. The SPLOST is the best program to provide for the needs of the Cobb School System.

Aren't these the same people who promote the Fair Tax???

February 17, 2013
Yes for SPLOST. This is a no-brainer folks. Elimination of debt, updated technology, construction and renovation projects. All without raising the millage rate.

I can't think of another Stadium in Cobb County that needs to be renovated more than Northcutt Stadium.
February 17, 2013
A new stadium at the high school would be better.

It would ease traffic and parking is already there.
Process Truth
February 17, 2013
J.D. Van Brink - the needs lists came first.

In the Cobb District, more than $2.0 billion in needs were identified before their board ever decided to support a joint SPLOST resolution with Marietta City Schools.

Imagine this - your home's roof is failing, your A/C & furnance are more than 20 years old and ready to fail, you need to add space to your home, your spouse has just startrd a home business and needs an office, etc... The list of your needs continues. You sit with your financial advisor, likely your spouse, and agree on the needs yet the piggy bank, nor the income horizon look promising. Each determine they don't want a second mortgage. The only solution is gaining additional revenue which they can do with part/full time work.

Substitute schools for your home and realize schools have needs. The needs were there long before revenue. And by the way, it's not as if the districts can go out and get some part time work to pay for the needs. Thankfully, no debt is being proposed and Marietta City Schools will actually have debt relief.
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