Q&A: Officials detail pros and cons of SPLOST
by Lindsay Field
March 10, 2013 12:50 AM | 2594 views | 10 10 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Editor’s note: Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, Deputy Superintendent of Operations Chris Ragsdale and Tom Maloy with the Georgia Tea Party answer some of the most controversial questions surrounding SPLOST IV. Hinojosa and Ragsdale support extending the 1-cent sales tax for education while Maloy opposes it.

Why are there not exact locations identified for the replacement elementary schools?

MH: There is a very deliberate process of how we go about identifying the sites, and we can’t get ahead of that game, of the board, or of the process on which elementary school or where.

CR: If you name a particular school you’re going to replace, you’re tied to that school, regardless if enrollment drops at that school and grows one attendance zone over. You don’t have the leeway to change midstream. We thought it was important to have that flexibility because we are in a growth flux right now.

TM – If they did identify those replacement elementary schools and that one middle school, I think the voters whose schools are not going to be replaced would either not vote for the thing or would not vote at all. The thing that voters need to know, the odds against a person’s school being replaced is 33 to 1. Those are pretty bad odds.

Why are the exact costs not posted on each page of the individual school lists in the projects?

CR – We wanted the focus to be on the need and not how much money was spent on each school because each school’s needs are going to be different, but the purpose of the SPLOST is to meet the needs with the amount of money that we have.

Every project is funded from one of two areas. Either they are listed under the area, like roofs, playgrounds, etc., or the individual school needs.

TM – I think a lot of those things are kind of place holders. When I talked to one of the school board members earlier, I asked that same question, and he told me that those were place holders and said if there were money for those things, they’d do those projects. That may or may not be true, but that’s what I was told. I don’t like that idea. It gives way too much latitude in something as large and important as this.

Why is it listed as the east Cobb area middle school?

CR – We did this in case we wanted to put it on a different plot of land. The attendance zone would probably stay pretty close to the same.

TM – I would think that they are doing that because they think their most important group of voters or the ones that would be most likely to vote en masse for this thing are in east Cobb. I think they are simply trying to give them a little more incentive to vote for it.

Does the Career Academy have to be a stand-alone building? Why are there no details listed for this facility?

MH – We can actually split the money up into four different schools and add quasi-smaller career academies in schools if we wanted or we could do a stand-alone. The language says there will be construction for a career academy, but it doesn’t have to necessarily be one building.

TM – If you look at the project list, it says a 95,000-square-foot facility. When I look at that, I think of one big facility. What concerns me is that they only have $10 million in there for land, and that’s land to I guess build that facility and additional land for the replacement schools.

Why are there no details about transportation, number of teachers, pathways for the Career Academy?

MH – All of those variables will go into the final consideration, and there will be a lot of opportunity for input on that, and those facts will be considered deliberately before the facilities are built.

TM – The only answer I can come up with on that is what they’ve indicated, they haven’t done the planning and haven’t thought this thing all the way through and, if they have, they haven’t come up with answers that are palatable to the public.

Will teachers be handling multiple classrooms because of the addition of space but lack of allotments?

MH – I really (don’t know what Tom Maloy is referencing in his Sunday column in MDJ), but the basic premise is that teachers will follow the kids. For example, if you open the Career Academy, there will be less kids at other schools, therefore they will have less teacher allotments.

TM – We heard Scott Sweeney say that when I asked him, “You’re saying that you’re going to add 56 new classrooms … where are you going to get the money to fund teachers to teach in these classrooms.” Scott Sweeney said, “Well, we’re considering ways for teachers to teach in two classrooms at once.” I heard that, J.D. Van Brink (chair of the Georgia Tea Party) heard it and David Staples from the Cobb Taxpayers Association heard it. We all understood it the same way.

How will you maintain the costs of these new buildings with an approximate $2 million maintenance and operation budget in the general fund each year?

MH – That gets absorbed in many areas. When you build the two replacement elementary schools, I can bet you that their energy consumption is going to be much less than the schools we replace. When we rebuild East Cobb Middle School, it’ll be much more energy efficient than the wide open East Cobb Middle School building that we have right now.

TM – Kimberley Euston challenged the school board on this was in November and she asked that very question and Superintendent Hinojosa said, “These things will work themselves out.” That’s not the way to do business.

What do you say when voters argue that the entire list isn’t for improving education, i.e.: ADA upgrades at athletic facilities, gymnasiums, theaters, etc.?

CR – It goes towards the overall environment of the facility, which contributes to every facet of education. You could make the same argument for copiers, but they play an integral role in the education process for the teacher as a tool.

TM – One of the things that really bothers me is the fact that they have $130 million allocated for additions and modifications, and out of that $130 million, $112 million will be spent on theaters and gymnasiums for only seven schools. I think it’s nice to have nice facilities but consider this … North Cobb High is getting one gymnasium and one theater for a total cost of $20.5 million, that’s two-thirds of the cost of totally replacing Osborne High School. There’s something wrong there. Do we need gymnasiums that cost $10 to $12 million each? I consider that a waste and most of that is not adding one bit to the outcome that parents want for their children – and that is a good education.

Very few people who graduate from any of these high schools will make it to the NBA or the NFL. This isn’t going to develop careers. It’s P.E. Shouldn’t they be putting more money into teaching. Teachers teach, buildings don’t teach.

My purpose is to make sure that what’s in the SPLOST and what the taxpayers are paying for, actually does what we expect it to do, and I don’t see for the life of me that this is going to do it.

What happens if SPLOST IV doesn’t pass?

MH – If it does not pass, it’s going to add some other significant challenges to the operational budget. For example, we get textbooks, copiers, buses and technology with these dollars, and we still have to have all four of those things to operate our schools and we already have a challenging budget facing an $80 million deficit, so that would add to that. I don’t want to play the scare tactics, but it would create some additional challenges and we’d have to come up with some creative ways to deliver quality education because one thing’s for sure, 107,000 kids are going to show up in August, and we have to be ready for them.

TM – If it doesn’t pass, they will take a look at the things that really need immediate attention: leaky roofs, air conditioners that aren’t working properly and things that might cause safety hazards. They will look at those things and probably ask for a bond issue to be passed. If that is the case, then probably they’ll get the bond issue to cover those things that need to be covered. They’ll say to look at the interest rates, which aren’t too bad right now.

Get rid of the extravagant and opulent monuments that they are trying to build here and get down to the job of educating children and they might have some money leftover to pay teachers decent salaries and get enough teachers to teach in our schools.
Comments
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Bull man
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March 11, 2013
Vote no and let the walrus go!!!!
VFP42
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March 11, 2013
All these questions but not one asking

= How did CCSD ever manage to get by for 100 years before SPLOSTs existed, and why can't that be done by today's "leaders" (or are they "needers?"

= All the property tax that paid for capital budgets items before the SPLOST was started, where did that money go? What does it pay for now? Each $1 of SPLOST revenue has to pay for capital budget items, but a $1 of property tax that used to pay for capital budget items can be replaced with a SPLOST $1 and then that old $1 could be spent taking strippers golfing at Melrose on Dafuskie Island, couldn't it? Nothing guarantees the continued capital budget use of pre-SPLOST capital budget funding sources, right? So it's effectively just a shell (sell?) game when you say SPLOST is guaranteed to pay for capital budget items, right?

Here's an example:

2013 Property Tax Dollar A pays for capital budget item X

2014 Splost Sales Tax Dollbar B is guaranteed to pay for capital budget item X

Dollar A is now freed up by guaranteed Splost Tax Dollar B. Dolar A now can pay for golfing with strippers driving the cart and serving the beer while lobbying legistlators for SPLOST VIII. YEE HAW!

Vote for SPLOST! Strippers need the money!!!
@ VFP42
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March 11, 2013
Q1.) Bonds resulting in property tax increases that were paid back with interest.

Q2.) Bond revenue doesn't go into a piggy bank for savings. It's spent on designated projects and the bond (i.e. loan) is paid back with interest.

100% of SPLOST goes to SPLOST projects. With the most recent Cobb school bond, just $0.70 of every $1.00 went to projects. 30% went to interest.

P.S. Seems like you may have first hand knowledge of a certain island spot.
Odds Maker
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March 10, 2013
Maloy ridiculously skews his odds regarding the replacement elementary schools by including all elementary schools.

For example, it's not likely that the district would replace East Side, Clarkdale, or Mableton which were recently constructed. He's simply taken a total elementary school count and divided by 2.

By replacing any school built during 1960 or earlier, the odds are 1 in 5.

Up it to earlier than 1970 and the odds are 1 in 10.
BONDS?!?
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March 10, 2013
Malloy says it himself. If SPLOST does not pass, the schools will need bonds which will INCREASE property taxes for homeowners and businesses!

Why when we could raise 30% of our needed revenue from visitors and commuters to Cobb would you vote NO and increase your property taxes.

Seniors, think about what the businesses must do when their property taxes go up. They pass those costs increases to their customers.
JR in Mableton
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March 10, 2013
So, the official position of the Georgia Tea Party is that CCSD SHOULD INCUR DEBT TO PAY FOR CAPITAL PROJECTS. Rather than put a place a mechanism to pay cash and avoid debt, the Tea Party now supports debt.

Here is a simple question for TM, when you have a budget shortfall and sell bonds, how do you pay off the bonds?

You might want to consider a run for Congress with this type of nonsensical logic.
Running on thin ice
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March 10, 2013
The public needs to understand that the teachers and students are the people who suffer most. The big executives make sure they are paid well and the little people suffer. I don't like the wasteful spending of theaters and gyms, but if SPLOST does not pass the teachers will have higher class sizes and lower pay. The students have less attention and our school district will begin to fail. We have a huge turn over of teachers right now because the younger generation is leaving after 5 years. They have had enough of the low pay, 60 hour work weeks, and constant stress from administration and the public. No matter what teachers do, it is never good enough for the public and politicians. We need SPLOST!
anonymous
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March 10, 2013
I would have to disagree with the Tea Party member who thinks gymnasiums and theaters do not contribute to "student outcomes." The positive effect of music on educational success is well-documented. If you were to examine the percentage of students participating in music and/or athletics, you would find that it is the majority of students at most schools. Not only are music and PE part of the curriculum, they are the places kids learn discipline, teamwork and leadership. Kids tend to behave better when they know they will have to answer to a coach or band director if they don't. In these large schools, music and athletics give the kids a sense of belonging and pride. Without them, many of the kids would just be lost in the crowd. My child didn't grow up to be a musician, but I credit his experience in band as one of the crucial factors in his personal and academic success. Band and athletic facilities are not frills.
There, it's Fixed!
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March 10, 2013
Maloy clearly does not understand the difference between operation and capital budgets.

Operation budgets fund salaries.

Capital budgets fund buildings and similar capital expenditures.

If SPLOST doesn't pass, he assumes the needs will change. News Flash... The needs remain the same and will only become greater and more costly with delay.

Should their be a SPLOST failure and if the Marietta and Cobb boards proposed bonds to Cobb voters, Maloy and his ilk would steadfastly remain critical.

Maloy's solution is to do nothing or to delay... simply postponing the inevitable thereby making Cobb and Marietta schools' needs more costly and placing a greater, heavier financial burden on Cobb's residents.
anonymous
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March 10, 2013
Go read the difference between "needs" and "wants."
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