School board should go ‘back to drawing board’
March 17, 2013 12:03 AM | 1234 views | 11 11 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DEAR EDITOR:

Georgia Tea Party’s (GTPI) decision to oppose the ED-SPLOST did not come lightly. The board considered the questionable practice of holding a special election in March instead of at a normal election time. We looked at the process used in determining the project list and then closely scrutinized the SPLOST Notebook. We found little in the Notebook directly related to education and much that focused on enticing specific groups to vote in favor of this tax.

Following several meetings with school board members, district officials and staff, our primary questions remained unanswered.

Exasperated by the lack of detail and planning endemic in this SPLOST and driven by a desire to make sure that tax money for education truly fulfills that objective, the Georgia Tea Party had no alternative but to oppose what ultimately is a wasteful extension of an ostensibly “temporary” tax.

While Georgia Tea Party believes the Cobb school system is one of the best in the state, GTPI acknowledges specific educational needs do exist. Therefore GTPI makes the following recommendations for action when the SPLOST is defeated.

First, we urge school officials to go back to the drawing board and identify real needs and prioritize them as to those that require immediate attention and those that can wait for one, two or three years. Specific health, safety and maintenance issues should be the primary focus and the exact schools requiring attention should be identified.

Second, a detailed justification for each need should be developed. It should include a complete explanation of the origin of the project, what it is, the objectives, the benefit and how success will be measured upon completion. Reasonable cost estimates should be obtained and precise timelines developed. Comparisons should be made with similar, previously-completed projects and if costs or deadlines appear to be padded or unrealistically low, a second or third opinion should be obtained.

Third, a pared-down Notebook should be developed which includes the cost and justification for each project. Austerity should be the prerequisite. New construction should be adequate and not extravagant. If additional infrastructure is required, the source of funding for maintenance, staff, utilities, transportation and support should be determined.

Fourth, all funding options ought to be explored. In today’s low-interest debt environment, many options, such as bonds that may not have been desirable a few years ago, may be suitable now.

Fifth, regardless of the source of funding, the new Notebook would need to be presented to the public and a referendum held at a time corresponding with a regular general election, the next being November 4, 2014. If emergency funding is required, short term funding could be obtained with the debt pay-off an integral part of the 2014 Notebook.

GTPI believes a long-term vision for education in Cobb is essential, but since educational requirements are becoming increasingly fluid, any Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax should focus on near-term projects that are truly “special,” and of which all consequences have been determined.

GTPI is offering a reasonable approach. Its simplicity yields transparency. Its short-term character yields efficiency and accountability. It discourages waste by first fixing the things that need to be fixed, and allowing time for a more deliberate approach to the larger projects that do not require immediate action.

GTPI’s objective is to help improve education in our county, state and nation by making sure that every tax dollar spent yields a full dollar in benefit for our children.

J.D. Van Brink

Chair, Georgia Tea Party
Comments
(11)
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Just Sayin'....
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March 18, 2013
Re Last Line:

Your argument lacks merit since three of your points...furlough days, class size and teaching staff....are NOT going to improve with SPLOST. SPLOST money cannot be spent on these things. End of story. We can build with it, we can do SOME repairs with it, but we can do precious little else with it.

Re: Andy Steinhauser - While I do not agree with taking on any debt, the fact is IF you have to do so, now would be the time. Even if SPLOST manages to pass, the legislature will close the loop-hole which allows us to declare certain funds 'excess' which we have been using to keep the ship afloat. They will also raise the tax limits to make up for falling revenues and increased spending. Then we shall have higher taxes and a SPLOST. SPLOST is not the answer.
Tony Cain
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March 18, 2013
Hundreds of millions of dollars are not specified for specific projects, which means the school board can do anything they want to do. This is reason enough to vote NO.

My letter to the editor was published in the Sunday Marietta Daily Journal. You can see this paper in the library. I don't know why it is not online. Maybe the monitor of this site will speak with JK about that.

My letter is not nearly as polite as the Tea Party.

It's not a revenue problem with govt., it's a spending problem. There will never be enough money for them. Once you understand this, the game is over.
Last Line
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March 18, 2013
J.D. - Did you really say it's your (i.e. GTPI's) objective to make "sure that every tax dollar spent yields a full dollar in benefit for our children."

If that is the case, why is it your solution to take on debt with interest? Interest benefits bankers, not children.

With your suggested timeline, nothing takes place to improve schools until 2015 at the earliest. Occupancy of larger projects would not occur until the 2017-2018 school year.

Failure to pass SPLOST IV will result in greater pressure on district's operating budgets leaving less funding for teachers.

So...

You're for bankers, not children.

You're for fewer teachers.

You're for larger classroom sizes.

You're for more furlough days.

You're for delaying needed improvements.

You had an alternative, yet failed to make the right choice.

Samuel Adams
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March 19, 2013
Oh baloney. Mr. VB put forth a rational, responsible position and you are demonizing his efforts in an attempt at scaring teachers (how many thousands of teachers and CCSD employees again?) into getting out there and voting. You are counting on the regular people to either be ignorant of the tax vote, or to go with the repeated CCSD-generated campaign to vote on March 19th. My home has received several phone calls campaigning. Isn't there a violation there when the CCSD uses taxpayer funded robo-call equipment to campaign for a tax? Just vote NO for all the reasons Van Brink outlined. CCSD crony business tuxedos might have to work a little harder to get their contracts, but at least we won't be committing fiduciary hari kari.
Thomas J Palmer
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March 18, 2013
To all those screaming insults and trying to kill the messenger, have you actually SEEN or actually investigated how the $718 million will be spent???

Fresh paint (7.2 million) and Astro Turf will not help children become better educated. CCSB says "just send money, we'll find a way to spend it."

Legislation states that SPLOST dollars are not to be spent on maintenance or salaries, so TAXPAYERS get ready to pay more and more and more...ad infinitum.
anonymous
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March 17, 2013
So, you are saying that paying interest is better than NOT? Are you serious?
Andy Steinhauser
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March 17, 2013
Got to love your attitude of "Damn the Torpedoes, full speed ahead". Especially when you advocate the destruction of our educational system....not.

Your statement that the school system should look at bonds as a means of financing our school needs; screams of a lack of understanding concerning how public entities acquire debt.

First, a bond needs a public vote, putting us in the exact same position as the ESPLOST. It can not be done arbitrary and capriciously as you have seemingly suggested.

Second, why would the Tea Party wish for the school system to acquire any debt? - Just because they can does not mean they should -. This assertion (curiously) seems to fly in the face of the basic tenants on which the Tea Party was founded upon.

Surely, I am not the only one who sees the awkwardness of this position.



Brilliant!
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March 17, 2013
The Tea Party solution is to go into debt. BRILLIANT!

There's a primary reason ex-members exist - the tea party has proven to be Citizens Against Absolutely Everything (i.e. CAVE while offering little in the way of solutions.

Rather than support a Fair Tax Equivalent - consumption based financing - they would rather leverage property taxpayers who would fulfill the full burden of the revenue.
Against Everything
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March 17, 2013
If the tea party which is made of far right reactionary know nothings is against the ESPLOST proposal my family and I will be voting for it. It is hard to take seriously extremists and bigots who make up the Crazies in the GOP like Palin, Bachman, Van Brink, and Cruz. Please go away already, you have had your 15 minutes and it's an embarrassment.
anonymous
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March 19, 2013
Spoken just like Kevin Foley. How does it feel Kev, to be the lone liberal voice in Cobb, so much so you can be identified almost immediately?
Against
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March 19, 2013
Sorry but I am just a working guy in East Cobb. I realize I am one of the 17000 or so subscribers to the MDJ that is not a tea party fan but your attempt to put down my post makes no sense. Typical.
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