School board hashes out SPLOST changes
by Lindsay Field
October 26, 2012 02:11 AM | 3549 views | 15 15 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<br>MDJ Staff/File

MDJ Staff/File
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MARIETTA — The Cobb school board met for two hours Thursday to hash out changes and details proposed in the proposed SPLOST IV project list.

The district expects to collect roughly $717.8 million in sales tax between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2018, to help pay for capital improvement projects. The board, which originally saw a draft of the project list in mid-September, will vote to put the referendum before voters next month. If approved, the sales tax would be up for a public vote in March.

The revised list on major projects includes a few $200,000 to $300,000 tweaks, four projects that were not on the original list increasing costs by around $39.7 million and the elimination of one of two career academies valued at $29.9 million each.

The additions include building an east Cobb area replacement middle school valued at $30.2 million, a new $3.3 million wing at Kincaid Elementary in Marietta, $3.1 million in interior renovations at Tapp Middle in Powder Springs and the addition of 10 new classrooms at Teasley Elementary in Smyrna coming in at $3.1 million.

Another big change in the revised list is the $13.7 million increase in costs for updates to Walton High in east Cobb. It includes the district building a new fine arts facility with a theater and a new gym.

Chris Ragsdale, Cobb’s deputy superintendent of operations, said after the meeting that additional costs for Walton improvements were introduced after the school’s foundation hired an architect to come in and determine how to identify locations on their 40-plus acre piece of property, which is considered small for a high school campus serving more than 2,000 students, for new facilities.

He also said additional funding came from the district getting rid of one of the two proposed career academies.

Alison Bartlett, who represents west-central Cobb and is the board’s liaison on the SPLOST oversight committee, asked for more information on where the three replacement elementary schools would be located and asked if modifications regarding concessions at athletic facilities could be rewritten to represent Americans with Disabilities Act requirements so that voters understood they were voting on bringing facilities up to code, not rebuilding a concession stand.

Ragsdale said he would look into the wording of the concessions repairs and said district staff were reluctant to identify exact locations for replacement elementary schools.

“Naming verses not naming gives the board more flexibility,” he explained. “If we said we wanted to replace Brumby Elementary School, we would have to build a new Brumby Elementary School. There would be no option not to build. This concept gives the board more flexibility in identifying the greatest area of need later on.”

North Cobb’s representative Kathleen Angelucci said when speaking to school communities that the biggest issue continues to be “health and safety” in the schools.

She gave the example of Blackwell Elementary School needing to resolve traffic problems.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” she said. “I don’t see it here (in the notebook).”

Angelucci said that for her, the pick-up and drop-off problems at Blackwell are more important than installing 38 new playgrounds at elementary schools for $85,000 each.

Ragsdale explained that they are bringing the playgrounds up to code and are on a replacement schedule.

“When the public thinks of SPLOST, they think of capital projects, they think of our buildings and the amount of things that need to be done within our buildings seem so massive so when you start talking about the replacement of playgrounds, it’s a little difficult when you’re comparing to things inside our buildings and that to me doesn’t represent what a Cobb County school should be,” she said.

Angelucci also said she continues to be worried about the need for a career academy rather than the district using existing facilities at local high schools.

“So far as a board, we’ve gotten anecdotal data,” she said. “We’ve gotten no supportive data, we’ve had no plan given to us to consider other than just a career academy. How much would it cost us extra in maintenance? How much would it cost us extra in transportation?

“The concept is awesome … but what we’re talking about is trying to look at this in another way because we do have to balance out offering those career pathways but also the stark realization that we have to pay for this. It’s not just paying for the building, but paying for transportation and maintenance as we move forward. That’s an extra cost to this district, and we would be remiss it not talking about that and discussing it as a whole before consider voting on this.”

Hinojosa said it would be “virtually impossible” for him to tell the board what would be in that facility but is excited to see it work out and would work with his staff to gather more details.

Tim Stultz said he would like to see what Hinojosa’s “vision” in with the academy.

“We’re responsible to this community,” Angelucci said. “If we’re going to present them with a SPLOST plan, they have to have more information.”

Bartlett chimed in saying, “Taxpayers are wanting more accountability for how we are spending. It’s the framework we’re asking for.”

The board will host another SPLOST IV informational meeting before the November vote but the date and time has not been set.

Marietta City Schools will also be included in SPLOST IV collections. They released a draft of their proposed project list during a meeting in early September.

The district expects to collect $53.3 million to go towards maintenance, such as $1.3 million to replace the roof at Marietta Middle School, paying off $15.2 million in debt, which includes $3 million for the Marietta High School auditorium, and $5.3 million to renovate Northcutt Stadium, including $630,000 for a synthetic turf football field.
Comments
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Imagine if
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October 26, 2012
Imagine if school systems didn't have to pay 5 mils fair share, (Cobb=$135M in 2012 alone).

Imagine if school systems didn't have austerity cuts from the state, (Cobb=$72.4M in 2012, $353M since 2003).

Imagine you earned $100 and someone took a chunk of it. Next, they said, "We need to take some more and give it to someone else who doesn't have as much as you do." Then, you are critisized for not living "within your budget" and taking care of all the things around your home like painting, maintenance, utilities, etc.

Now imagine what the Cobb County School District could have done to the district, kept from furlough days, 1/2 step pay raises, increasing class sizes, etc. if those austerity cuts and fair share were not so high?

GET THE PICTURE? You don't want a SPLOST? It will increase your property taxes BIG TIME and the district will go into debt.

Good Luck!
YES to SPLOST
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October 26, 2012
Naysayers ~ I understand your frustration and discontent with this Board. However, SPLOST pays for things such replacing/updating HVAC systems, carpeting, painting, ceiling tiles and replacements, outdated windows and doors, and the BIG thing is updating our technology equipment on a regular basis. NONE of this would be handled in the daily operating budget - the money is not there for this - especially now with the state and federal budget cuts. So - before you vote no, I BEG of you to educate yourselves with the SPLOST list of the schools near you. Go to the Cobb County school website - www.cobbk12.org I, personally would rather see the expenses for these paid for by a 1 cent tax that EVERYONE who purchases something in Cobb County vs only the property taxes of the homeowners.
Melvin Crassass
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October 26, 2012
More buildings means more people and more supplies to fill them. More principals and APs. We do not have money now to pay people and they want to increase the base? I understand the intent, but can you really afford the salaries right now or will some get laid off, more furlough days and paycuts larger classes and more computerized teaching methods?
Just Sayin....
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October 26, 2012
YES to SPLOST - SPLOST is prohibited from providing maintenance items. This is one of the reasons the F and T Committee has requested a review of some of the itmes on the list.
Just Sayin'
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October 26, 2012
No theaters, no gyms, no maintenance issues which are illegal under SPLOST. Delete these things and get back to us sometime later in 2013. Shame on you rascals....live within a budget, take care of what you have and plan accordingly. OOOOPPPS....I thought I was talking to my 11 year-old.
Guess You
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October 26, 2012
Guess you don't consider Fine Arts educational.

The Fine Arts rely heavily on the use of theaters.

Guess you don't consider physical education educational.

Guess you prefer that school buildings fall into a state of complete disrepair.

In case you hadn't noticed, the reason we have school buildings is due to capital improvement funding - bonds or SPLOST.

In case you hadn't noticed, the district has had to reduce teachers each of the past few years due to budget constraints. The budget barely allows for simple routine maintenance. It certainly does not allow for roof replacements, or similar projects that are legal capital outlay expenditures.

By the way, if you are a senior citizen you can voluntarily forego your property tax exemption anytime.

Just Sayin....
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October 26, 2012
Dear Guess You....please do not make assumptions. The reality is we can not afford these items and once they are built you are simply adding more maintenance that we cannot pay for. Please come back from the "perfect world" you must live in and look at the reality of the situation. If we had the money I would go along with doing these projects, but we do not. I support the arts and am a booster for athletics, BUT I do not think we can afford anything else. Perhaps you should focus on getting our teachers back up to a regular paycheck or our classes to a manageable size.
tired of splost
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October 26, 2012
please everyone vote NO NO NO NO NO NO

on this, the BOE needs to learn to operate within their budget like the rest of us.
Pay Up Seniors
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October 26, 2012
Vote "NO" for SPLOST!
@Pay Up Seniors
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October 27, 2012
Seniors do pay sales tax (ie. SPLOST)!
Just Wait
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October 26, 2012
This would be the fourth time for this "special" tax. It's time for this to stop. Don't fall for the "it's for the kids" line again. Cobb schools need to learn to live within their budget.
anonymous
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October 26, 2012
NO NO NO! It's just a list of Theaters and Gyms. Enough fluff that isn't educating. This is why we are bottom of the list in education but top at producing profesional atheletes.
VFP42
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October 26, 2012
IF Blackwell Elementary is "an accident waiting to happen," why save it for the SPLOST list? Why not fix it immediately?

What is this, a hostage situation? "If you do not pass SPLOST, someone's child will be run over at Blackwell?"

How LOW can you get?

LOW = NO
Twisted much?
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October 26, 2012
How twisted can you get - obviously you missed the point. Fixing traffic issues/drop off and pick up at schools where there is a clear danger to students and parents is a real problem which is more important than a playground. No one implied that if SPLOST isn't passed, someone's child would be injured. YOU implied that - shame on you!
Pay Up Seniors
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October 26, 2012
You are right. Why do we need to wait for SPLOST for a matter that important? Evidently Angelucci was looking for the improvements on the list and say playgrounds instead - let's hope the safety issues at Blackwell are not on the list because they are too important too wait!
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