‘Just say no’ to Ed-SPLOST IV
by Pete Borden
Guest Columnist
March 12, 2013 12:05 AM | 2400 views | 12 12 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Those fortunate enough to be employed noticed a decrease in spendable income right after the first of the year, due to tax increases. Nobody likes increased taxes, but for some — the underemployed and those living hand-to-mouth — this was a bitter pill to swallow.

Here is a way for everybody to effectively decrease a portion of their living expenses. The sales tax takes a chunk of your spendable income each time you make a purchase. You can decrease that expense by 16 percent. Just vote NO on the Ed-SPLOST referendum March 19. If it fails to pass, on Jan. 1, 2014, the sales tax rate will drop to 5 percent. It won’t make up for the tax increase entirely, but it is a start. Don’t fall for that malarkey that it is “only 1 percent.” It represents 16 percent of your sales tax cost.

If you have read the “SPLOST Notebook” available on the school board’s website, you have learned that it is hardly a list of needs. It is, in fact, more a list of wants. Sure, there are some needed items sandwiched in all the gingerbread. If you have been following the debate on this tax, you also know that there is a lot of misinformation floating around.

CLAIM: This is part of a list of needs developed earlier last year, equating to over $2 billion. The list was pared down to the basic essentials.

REALITY: The earlier list was a smoke screen, composed of “want it” projects and “will the taxpayers go for this?” speculation, intended only to sell the final list as “bare needs.” Does anybody really believe that we absolutely must have seven new gymnasiums costing over $69 million, or six new performing arts centers costing $75 million? Seriously, aren’t these things you do during boom times, not during recessions? And, face it folks, we have no guarantee that the economy is going to improve.

CLAIM: If the SPLOST referendum does not pass, the alternative is either increased property taxes or a bond issue, leading to increased property taxes.

REALITY: Property taxes in Cobb County are very close to the maximum allowed by state law. The real alternative is to put the projects on hold, awaiting an economic recovery. The career academy ($29 million dollars) to be built “sometime, somewhere” is certainly not a need. The notebook proposes several new schools (over $100 million), with no location, no justification and no plan for staffing, operating expenses and maintenance.

Who says we are gong to even need them? As of October 2011, less than two years ago, according to the CCSD Planning Department, there were 8,014 empty desks in Cobb County schools.

Do we believe that all those desks have now been filled and we need to build new schools?

I hardly think so. Do you?

CLAIM: A large portion, as much as a third, of this tax will be paid for by non-residents.

REALITY: This claim, made each time we have a SPLOST, is based on a debunked study done mostly by counting the percentage of foreign license plates in parking lots. Besides, even if the percentage is true, does that change the amount you pay? No, it does not!

Many of the items in this notebook appear to be long-neglected routine maintenance items. To hit a few high spots, there is $5 million for flooring replacement in 10 schools. We are told that 19 schools, all at once, are in dire need of painting, at a cost of $7.2 million. Track resurfacing adds over $4.5 million.

Interestingly enough, had the Cobb County Commission passed the IMAGE ordinance, we would probably be looking at a mass exodus of illegal immigrant children in our school system and decreased need for additional facilities.

The pro-SPLOST forces have done an excellent job of spreading the propaganda that, without this SPLOST, your taxes will go out of sight, our children will suffer and education in Cobb County will be dead. None of that is true. They need to redo this notebook to reflect a modicum of common sense.

Before you vote, take a half hour, go the school district web site at www.cobb.k 12.ga.us and examine or download the 154 page SPLOST Notebook.

It will not take much study to convince you to say NO to this SPLOST.

Pete Borden is a retired masonry contractor in east Cobb.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Taxed Enough Already
March 12, 2013
Right on Pete. You the man!
Nettie Stemm
March 12, 2013
Interersting that the front page carries a story about the board voting on 4 projects from the SPLOST3 notebook, which are an avergae of 20% under budget. Is that their tactic? Estimate high and then look good by coming in under budget? Was the SPLOST 4 notebook prepared by the same people using the same principles?

Can we assume that, in addtion to unneeded projcts , this notebook also contains a 20% over estimate for the total cost? Instead of 717 million, they only need under 574 million? Is the difference, some 143 million, to be considered, a "slush fund"?
@ Nettie
March 12, 2013
And if they had been 20% over budget, your negativity would have been the same.

$231,900,000.00 of SPLOST revenues will come from people who visit and commute to Cobb. NOW that's an important number!
Nettie Stemm
March 12, 2013
to @Nettie.No, it is not an important number. It is just a number that someone came up with which cannot be substantiated in any way. The actual number might be that, it might be hald that, it might be a quarter of that.

It s simply another tool to try and sell this flawed plan.

Whether they are 20% over budget or 20% yunder budget, the fact remains, we cannot rely on what they say something is going to cost.
March 12, 2013

Another good column. You have shown the facts and reasonable realities.

An @Pete responder displays his/her belief in the very things you expose here and which is based on his/her belief that all the projects are NECESSARY. @Pete would be well advised to got the URL you posted and read the projects. These are hard times with higher taxes for most folks. Nice things to have are not the same as things that are needed.

I have tightened my financial belt, CCSD should do the same.

Thanks for the insight.
Logic Flaw
March 12, 2013
So Pete...

Presume sales tax was just 1%. It would represent 100% of the sales tax.

Should that sales tax be eliminated, since a 1% decline would eliminate 100% of the tax burden?

This 1% just happens to be SPLOST. Failure to support SPLOST results in complete, 100% elimination of a capital budget for the Marietta and Cobb school systems.

The alternative funding is bonds paid back with interest and all levied upon Cobb property tax payers. Should SPLOST pass, the Marietta system will become debt free and their residents should experience a reduction in their property tax.

You can argue all day long about project list needs vs. wants yet most will agree that capital budgets must be funded in some manner. Cobb's long-standing, historical support of bonds and SPLOST are prime examples.
March 12, 2013
Great column, Mr. Borden. Yours is the common sense approach that built this country, while the special interests are trying to figure out how to marginalize and demonize you on behalf of their crony capitalist tuxedo buddies.

The thing to remember here is that no vote on March 19 is a yes vote for government waste. There is a time and place for SPLOST, but in the middle of a recession with "improvements" that have been suggested is not it.

@ Pete
March 12, 2013
You tell us things based upon partial information and opinion.

FACT - Bonds will have to be issued and property taxes will go up. Tom Malloy of the anti-splost crowd admitted this in the MDJ on Sunday.

So that decrease of 1% you think will solve everyone's problem will be erased by property tax increases for homeowners and business owners. Do not forget the business owners who will be impacted. When their costs go up, so do yours.

If I listen to your claims about illegal immigrants in Cobb, then perhaps we should raise the amount to 40% that SPLOST would raise from "non-residents".

WHY on earth would any voter in Cobb County leave approximately $231,900,000.00 of revenue to be paid by non-Cobbers on the table so that they could raise taxes upon themselves?

I vote YES to keep my taxes lower and KEEP COBB GREAT.
I vote "yes"
March 12, 2013
An additional thought: I grew up in DeKalb County when it had one of the finest school systems in the state, if not the country. One can see what happens to image and property values when the school system, for any reason, is allowed to deteriorate.

We can't let that happen in Cobb or our economy will surely never improve.
Devlin Adams
March 12, 2013
Apparently you did not read the article upon which you are commenting, or you have already succumbed to the Chamber of Commerce Kool-Aid stupor, and are beyond anything other than parroting what they tell you.

The best alternative is to delay the projects, until the economy shows sustained improvement. Also, you need to educate yourself about bonds. They require voter approval If the voters do not approve SPLOST, what makes you think they will approve a bond issue? In other words, the threat of bonds is worthless, unless the voters approve them.

Equally as worthless is the threat of a millage increase. We are so close to the legal limit on millage that, if they increased it to the max, it would not amount to as much as the SPLOST will cost us.

Further, I guess you missed the entire section of the article dealing with the nebulous "1/3 paid by people who do not live in Cobb county." Here is the story. Some year back, in ANOTHER county, an alleged study was done on the percentage of sales tax paid by people from without the county.

The surveyers went around counting cars on parking lots at restaurants and shopping centers.

That was the basis for their guess of 25 to 30%.

The shortsidedness and pure inanity of the methodology has long since debunked any authenticity the farcical study may have enjoyed.

Teh figure may be 231 million, or it may be 75 million,its anybody's guess. But, as Borden points out, it does not lessen the burden on you or me.

Please reread Borden's article,with an eye toward comprehension. Then get back to me.

March 12, 2013
Until the economy shows sustained improvement? Do you have a timeline for that you can enlighten us with?

In the meantime, our capital NEEDS will go unfunded unless we draw them out of operating budget meaning less teachers or we go the bond route.

FACT: Bonds increase property taxes.

I vote YES for SPLOST.
Devlin Adams
March 13, 2013
To @ Devlin, you say "FACT: Bonds increase property taxes."

Here is another FACT. Bonds have to be approved by the voters. If they turn down SPLOST4, what makes you think they will approve a bond issue?

Further, bond issues are specific, or they cannot even get on the ballot. Nothing like "New elementary school in unknown location, with no provision for teachers, or staff" would ever even get on the ballot as a bond issue. But we are expected to appove it as a SPLOST, because somebody says it is a need. With 8,000 empty desks, somebody must show me the need before they get my support.

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