Regardless of your choice, please do not fail to vote. Countless lives have been given and countless gallons of blood shed to assure you of the right. Don’t let them have suffered and died in vain.
Back in July, Gov. Nathan Deal, the Atlanta Regional Commission and Cobb County Commission Chairman, Tim Lee, were the recipients of an eye-opening lesson. They learned, the hard way, that the taxpayers will only stand still for being bled for so long. At some point they will say, in a very loud voice, “NO MORE!” The TSPLOST referendum was handily defeated.
The people were not against a regional transportation plan to solve the mounting transportation problems in this area. They just recognized that the proposed plan would not accomplish that. So, they sent the planners back to work on a real plan to solve real problems in a realistic and economical manner.
It may well be that the time has come for the Cobb County School Board to learn the same lesson. The board is currently preparing the SPLOST IV notebook. It is their plan to sell the taxpayers on continuing the 1 percent sales tax for another five years, bringing to a total of 20 the number of years that such revenue has been available for their use.
It all started in 1998, with the school board successfully selling the taxpayers on the idea of giving them the dollars to replace the mobile classrooms (trailers) with real classrooms in real buildings. It sounded like a good idea. The only problem is that, at the end of the five years, we had the same number of trailers, around 700, give or take a few, that we had when it started, and many of them were five years older. Naturally, the cry became, “Give us another five years and this time we promise to get rid of the trailers.”
We are about to wind down our fourteenth year under the Special Purpose sales tax, and, though they have been reduced in number quite a bit, we still have trailers. We have spent over $1.5 billion yet we still have trailers and we still say we need classrooms and school buildings. Where did the money go? We built some schools, added onto some schools and remodeled some schools. Did we spend $1.5 billion doing that? We did not, not by a long shot.
Members of the Facilities and Technology committee have already questioned the legality of a large portion for the projects on the SPLOST IV list, and with good reason. Those fall under maintenance and upkeep, a purpose for which SPLOST was never intended. This appears to be a backdoor way to free regular funds for other uses. But, let’s be honest and call it what it is. Subterfuge comes to mind.
We do not elect school board members to increase our taxes. We elect them to run our schools on the amount of money available. I don’t know about them, but most people do not have the luxury of demanding money from another source, when they have not properly managed what they were given.
Additionally, members of the same F&T Committee, including a former chairman of the school board, have indicated that they would withhold information from the taxpayers in an effort to affect the outcome of the vote. They said they do not want to furnish information which would include a breakdown of how much each school would benefit from the SPLOST funds.
I don’t blame them. In the time I have spent looking at the SPLOST IV notebook, I don’t like what I see. It appears to be a compilation of “It sure would be nice if we had this.” Numerous non-academic facilities dot the list. Most disturbing is the number of “plugs” for new and replacement schools, sans location.
I think if the voters demand full disclosure, in an easily understood format instead of a notebook consisting of 155 pages, many of which contain less than a dozen lines, they will send the authors of this SPLOST proposal scurrying back to the drawing board with their tails tucked between their legs.
That would be appropriate.
Pete Borden is a retired masonry contractor in east Cobb.