Cobb will see tough times if seniors taxed for schools
by Jim Stoll
Columnist
May 27, 2012 01:27 AM | 1574 views | 15 15 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I really grow tearful over his delusional belief that seniors should pay because the school district can’t make ends meet. What he is arguing is not an under-taxation problem. It is a significant overspending problem, both on the part of the schools and personal lives of his taxpaying fellow travelers.

About 75 years ago, when I attended grade school during the Great Depression, there was no federal or state aid for education. The citizens of a school district paid to build a grade school, paid to maintain it and paid its teachers. My father worked for $2 per day and my parents lived in a two-room log cabin with an open-eave attic. There was no electricity, no indoor water, no indoor pluming and two woodburning stoves. The six kids walked or rode a horse 2.5 miles to catch a school bus to ride another 13 miles to school. But they educated their kids. We didn’t have a high school then because our parents couldn’t afford one. Somehow, we all made it and paid our own way as we did so.

About 50 years ago, when my three children went to school, there was no federal or state aid for education. The citizens of the three school districts where we lived paid to build, maintain the buildings and to pay the teachers. Each of our three school districts had one superintendent, one assistant superintendent and two secretaries. The students rode bicycles to and from school, including High School. Parking was provided for faculty only. I worked for $1,500 per month then, paid $3,000 per year for school taxes, and paid 7 percent interest on our $38,000 home mortgage, on which we had made a $7,000 down payment. My wife was a homemaker. We had one 19” TV set, one car and no A/C in the car or our home. We learned to “do without.“ Somehow we managed to pay our own way. But after our kids finished high school, we still had to pay $7,500 school taxes on our home, so we moved out of Illinois because we could no longer afford to live there.

Over the past 12 years, while my three grandchildren attended school in Cobb County, the school district received substantial federal and state aid for education. The district is debt free and pays all of the cost to build new educational facilities and to maintain existing facilities with SPLOST funds, about 40 percent of which are paid by seniors and visitors to our state. School district administration now consists of a superintendent, a deputy superintendent, eight assistant superintendents and 52 administrative staff members. Even though times are tough now, over 10,000 student desks are allowed to sit empty in 100-plus schools and no one seems to worry about it as new schools continue to be built.

Meanwhile, the average home price in Cobb County is now about $300,000 and the average school tax is about $2,000 per year. Many families have a 52” HDTV in their family room and smaller TV sets in every bedroom. Most family members now carry cell phones, many of them IPADs, and the average family cell phone bill is close to $100 per month. Homes in the area where I live have between four and seven cars on their driveways and the high schools now need 2,000 parking spaces for students. Our 16 high schools build million dollar athletic facilities with artificial turf football fields.

Yet taxed families whine and cry because seniors, with no children in school, are not willing to pay an equal share for the educating their kids. It sounds like our taxpaying citizens are really cutting their living expenses to the bone and still cannot make ends meet.

Well, I’ve got news for all the whining poormouths. If they somehow manage to cancel the senior citizen school tax exception in Cobb, the number of foreclosures will go up dramatically, half the senior homeowners, like me, will move out and the young families who come to visit them and spend money here while doing so will decrease dramatically. Business will suffer, some will fail and thousands of paying jobs will disappear.

History has proven that when the seniors leave, so does the money that they and their visiting children spend. When that happens, you’ll all find out what tough times are really like.

Jim Stoll of Kennesaw is a retired CEO of a business that he owned and operated in Chicago for 35 years. His business served as a consultant for design and construction of integrated electronic systems for education, business and medical facilities. He has worked with schools for most of his life, to advance the education of children.
Comments
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fair deal
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May 30, 2012
If I'm paying for your social security, you can contribute to democratic society by paying for an educated electorate (I'm paying for that too).
Jim Stoll
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May 30, 2012
That's what I'm talking about. It's also the school's job to educate the upcoming generations on their duties as an American. So what are you getting for your money. I paid my dues in Korea. Where did you pay yours?
@jim stoll
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May 31, 2012
Korea?

What an ignorant comment to make.

Presumably sometime last century you served in the military in a foreign country - hence we should do what you want?

I wouldn't bring this up, but it is more relevant than your Korea comment: I pay more taxes than you do - hence we should do what I want.
Outlandish Claim
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May 29, 2012
Mr. Stoll;

While a supporter of your position on the Senior Tax Exemption, setting facts straight is important.

Your claim that "over 10,000 student desks are allowed to sit empty in 100-plus schools" is false.

The publicly available Full Time Enrollment (FTE) data from October 2011 includes school capacities, enrollment, and trailer counts showing that the Cobb County School District is under capacity by 3,614 students, not 10,000. With 109 schools listed, this means that there are, on average, approximately 33 open seats in each school.
Jim Stoll
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May 30, 2012
I apologize. The 10,000 number that I used in my article was from an earlier report. I have just received the latest report that was issued by the CCSD Planning Department for October 2011. It indicates that there are 8014 student desks sitting empty in Cobb County Schools. In addition, as of that date, there were 198 portable classrooms being rented to sit on CCSD sites. If you fill each of those portables with 20 students, you will have increased the school district capacity by 3,960 student positions without increasing the number of students at all. Then we must count the number of student positions that are available in the new 9th grade centers that are being built in the CCSD and you can add another several thousand to capacity, with the same number of students. All told, I believe that the 10,000 number that I used was very conservative. I haven't even talked about the number of students who will be taking advantage of the new tax breaks to go to a private school instead of a public school, because I don't have a handle on that, as yet. But I do know,it's awfully easy to spend money to build unneeded facilities when you're spending someone else's money. It is also estimated by the CCSD that the FTE of Cobb schools will go down by 48 students between 2011 and 2016. As I stated in my article, we don't have an under-funding problem in the CCSD. We have an over-spending problem in the CCSD. Where will it end? I haven't even gotten into the CCSD CAFRs yet. I watch those too. I don't know where you're getting your numbers, but I got mine from printed copies.
wearefamily
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May 29, 2012
And were did you get that the average home price in Cobb is $300,000?
Are u serious?
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May 27, 2012
There will be a mass exodus if the exemption is lifted? Seniors will sell their current homes in one of the worst housing markets in history, chuck all the equity they've built up over the years, go to the time and expense to locate a new place to live and move, all to avoid paying a few hundred dollars a year? And if there are that many seniors in Cobb who are willing to move that it will have the level of impact Mr. Stoll predicts, well, perhaps that further proves the point that the exemption should be lifted. Tell you what, Mr. Stoll. You can be exempt from school taxes if I can be exempt from paying any taxes for senior services in the county.
Jim Stoll
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May 28, 2012
What you don't understand is that most, if not all of the equity that the paid into their homes since they moved here is now gone, and now you want them to help you pay for your schools? They are already paying a hefty part of them with your penny SPLOST tax programs. I paid $140,000 for my home in 2002,with $40,000 down. As a result of government mismanagement, my home is now appraised at $96,110. So, all my equity savings are now zero. I left Illinois to move the Georgia because taxation would not allow me to live there anymore and I will leave Georgia when that same condition rears its ugly head here. I belong to a large non-tax supported senior citizens group and most of them feel the same as I do. As far as I am concerned, you can cancel the County Senior Services as well. I don't use them now. After you cancel the senior school tax exemption, there won't be enough seniors left to keep them open.
@Jim Stoll
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May 29, 2012
Am I missing something or don't these comments

"...most, if not all of the equity that they paid into their homes since they moved here is now gone..." suggest that your theory of mass-exodus is very difficult or impossible? Where are the seniors going to get the money to start over somewhere else?

Educate em
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May 27, 2012
Well said Mr. Stoll. As someone who is near the 62 yr old age, whose children attended Cobb schools all 12 years, I hope this property tax break is still available for myself.



I recently came across my Mother's grade book from 1948 when she taught at a Cobb County HS. Within the same day, she taught English Grammar, Science and Math. Her class sizes varied from 16 to 23 students. There is indeed too much unnecessary fluff crowding education today, mainly in the form of bosses and paperwork.

If and when the CCSD decides to spend money on teachers and teaching subjects, it might improve AND Cobb taxpayers might loose some of their disgust and anger.

I have printed your letter and have it for reference.
Ole Man
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May 27, 2012
Your comments are right on target. The school board is like any other government entity, it is easier to raise taxes than to cut spending. The current school systems are a disaster. The problem is trying to teach in a manner that all students are promoted regardless of them getting passing grades.

Parents of school children must demand that the schools do a better job of educating the students. Raises taxes on seniors will not solve the budget crisis.
old timer
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May 28, 2012
When one half the people in the county office are gone and one half the admisistrators and sectateries in the school, I will know the county is serious about its spending. Then everyone left will need a serious pay cut. Leave me and my taxes alone. I have paid my "fair share".
eCobb Dad of 3
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May 27, 2012
While I don't disagree with your premise that the senior exemption should be left alone I do have some questions on where you're getting these statistics you're throwing around with authority. "10,000 empty desks in 100 plus schools"? How are you coming up with this figure? This sounds to me like something you pulled out of your backside. Unless you're actually examining the financial statements of the CCSB I'm not sure you're argument holds water.
Jim Stoll
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May 28, 2012
Dear eCobb Dad of Three: I got the empty desk figures from a middle executice in the CCSD Administrative horde. I have been studying the CCSD CAFRs for the past 8 years. The millions spent on non-educational facilities are a matter of public record. I have been following the Federal E-rate program, formed to grant electronic systems in schools and libraries across the nation, which is funded by a secret tax on your telephone bills and now generates $2.2 Billion nationally since its inception. It is common knowledge that the fraud in that program are horrifying. Our schools have ceased to be educational institutions and have become money generating machines. Our childrens' education has become the fuel that keeps the machines running. The electronic systems consulting business that I ran for 35 years in Chicago worked with over 30 school districts, trying to develop ways to advance education. The opinions that I developed about education are the result of multiple opinions by many true educators who ran those school districts. Many of them quit because they just couldn't take it anymore,as did I. I also raised 3 children who went through the program and I have 3 grand-children who went through the Cobb program. The Cobb program is the worst of any educational enterprise that I have dealt with over the years
Armageddon Now
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May 27, 2012
And yet all the counties in Georgia and the rest of the country that tax the seniors somehow get by. I don't think that Cobb is doing appreciably better than the rest of the world right now - certainly not due to lack of senior tax.

I don't support imposing the tax on seniors; however, the armageddon talk is silly.
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