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.
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.
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.