Big win, but ... is Ed-SPLOST losing steam?
by Lindsay Field
March 21, 2013 12:46 AM | 5011 views | 12 12 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print

A Kennesaw State University political science professor said he wasn’t surprised by the low turnout numbers for the SPLOST IV election or that it passed.

Voter turnout was dismal, with just 9.6 percent of eligible voters casting ballots.

“It’s easier to come out and support something like this rather than vote against it,” said Kerwin Swint. “Education SPLOSTs in general probably have a little bit of a leg up because ‘it’s for the kids,’ so I think it’s always had a little bit of an advantage.”

SPLOST IV, which will allow each district to collect a combined $773.3 million from a 1 percent sales tax between 2014 and 2018, passed by about 5,800 votes Tuesday with 23,248 voters in favor of it and 17,317 opposed.

“All of these aside from the first have passed relatively easily,” Swint said.

Ed-SPLOST was first introduced to Cobb voters in 1997 but failed.

Roughly 15 months later, another referendum was brought before voters, and it passed with nearly twice as many voters turning out for the election and about 58 percent of them in favor of it.

“(SPLOST IV) passed, but the margin is going down a little bit,” Swint noted. “We may not always be able to rely on this passing.”

He said passage of the initiative depends on the confidence people have in the economy.

There were approximately 3,200 more “no” votes in this SPLOST election compared to SPLOST III, while the difference in passage was about 3.5 percentage points less.

Uphill battle for opponents

J.D. Van Brink, chairman of the board for the Georgia Tea Party, which opposed SPLOST IV, said he knew it would be an uphill battle not just for his organization but for whoever wasn’t in favor of the initiative.

“As soon as the vote was set to happen in March, I was inclined in the beginning to not even oppose it because we figured we wouldn’t win,” he said.

Van Brink said the odds were against them, but he believes the media coverage of it may have helped their cause in the long run.

“From the very beginning, we were focused on reforming the SPLOST process,” he said. “Getting it defeated is not as important as reforming the process.”

Doing that would require changes to state law, which Van Brink said wouldn’t just benefit Cobb but all of Georgia.

“That would make the entire state more fiscally responsible,” he said.

He said the process will take time, but his group is looking forward to working with the school boards, county commissioners, state legislators and the governor to reform SPLOST.

In questioning the need for another Ed-SPLOST, Van Brink also wondered, “How much is enough?”

He said about two-thirds of the state budget is spent on public education, 70 percent of Cobb County property taxes are spent on public education and that they are accepting a 1-cent sales tax collection on top of the income and property taxes.

“We were told there were roughly $2 billion in needs,” he said. “My question is, are we getting the bang for the buck we deserve, and I don’t think the answer is yes.”

Van Brink said Cobb and Marietta schools can do much better.

“We keep throwing money at all kinds of problems, not just education, but what is it really fixing?” he said.

Van Brink said he does understand there are needs in Cobb and Marietta schools, though.

“We at the Georgia Tea Party believe that about a third of the project lists are needs,” he said. “The shame is that we have to accept so many other things that aren’t needs in order to get the tax collected for the needs.”

Digging deeper into results

In a breakdown of the results, 40,565, or 9.6 percent, of Cobb’s registered voters cast a ballot in the SPLOST IV election. Of those, 37,947 voters were from county polling places and 2,618 from the city.

Among Cobb School Board members, the largest numbers of votes — 7,330 — were cast in David Banks’ northeast Cobb precincts. There were 4,647 votes in favor of the initiative and 2,683 against.

The lowest turnout in the county was in Tim Stultz’s southeast Cobb district, where 2,090 total voters visited the polls. Of those, 1,094 said “yes” to the referendum and 996 said “no.”

For the City of Marietta precincts, the largest number of votes was cast in Ward 1, which is represented by Jill Mutimer. A total of 891 voters cast ballots in her post, 466 for it and 425 against it.

Irene Berens’ voters in Ward 7 had the worst turnout with only 67 voters participating in the election. Of those, 24 were for it and 43 against.


Comments-icon Post a Comment
The Black Sheep
March 22, 2013
Let's do the math... it failed in 1997. Then it passed 15 months later. Nov 1997-Mar 1999 = 15 months. So, if it fails in a general election, let's do it on a random day in the middle of no cycle when we can only get the special interest folks to show up. That's how your Republicans roll, Cobb. Conservative? Only at church apparently.

We accidentally ended up at Willie Rae's on the Square for dinner the evening of the election. We didn't know it was the United 4 Kids (a stupid name, only four kids?!) election watching party location. It was a veritable Who's Who of contractors set to benefit from passage of the Ed-SPLOST. That's where the pro-tax money comes from, people. Well, that and tax dollars themselves. Wake up!
Truth factor
March 21, 2013
Don't forget it takes a special election to get approval. It would not pass if the school system put it on the ballot in the general election.

We all know why there is a 250,000 special election.
@ Truth factor
March 22, 2013
Actually... historically in Georgia, ESPLOST passage rates are 3% higher during November elections than March.

An Oct. 2012 GA State study found that "election timing has little impact on the outcome of ESPLOST referenda."
Tony Cain
March 21, 2013
At last, people are beginning to wake up to the travesty of SPLOST. As a county chairman said, "You can build this capital projects with SPLOST dollars but you have to maintain and operate them out of general fund dollars." And that means a property tax increase and fee increases. It also means overbuilding.

When less that 5 or 6 percent of voters impose a tax on the other 95 percent, that is a TRAVESTY.

The time is right to change the SPLOST law!
Be Careul
March 21, 2013
It's eay to pull the wool over people's eyes by saying "it's for the kids".

But a SPLOST is NOT the long term answer to the problems faced by the school board.

They are going to use the money to pay off debt and buidl new buildings (mostly).

But then they won't have money in the general operating fund to maintain all these new buildings, and they will need yet another SPLOST.

The only long term solution is to learn to live within the budget and make sound economic decisions.

Also, the quality of a students education has NOTHING to do with the year the school building (or gym, or theater) was built. It has to do with the teachers and the quality of the EDUCATION they impart on the children.

You can have a wonderful education in an old building. Or a crappy education in a brand new state of the art facility.
Sorry To Disagree...
March 21, 2013
"Be Careful" - I disagree with you. My son was is an older elementary school. While there, he missed 10 days of school or more each year due to illness. He had sinus infections, strep throat, pneumonia and horrible allergies all on a yearly basis. He got to middle school in a building that was "newer" (about 12 years old) and only missed 0 - 1 days of school per year. The newer building has proved to be a healthier situation for him most definitely. I'm thankful that his old elementary school is getting a new HVAC system due to SPLOST. And you are delusional, "Be Careful". Where have you been the last 5 years when the School Board has had to cut 10s of millions of dollars each year from its operating budget due to government cutbacks. How can they live within their means for day to day operating expenses PLUS maintain their facilities and technological equipment.
Oh Please!
March 21, 2013
If the older building were to blame as the only cause of illness, then most children would be sick. Surely you don't believe we believe we need to replace buildings every 20 years or so?

My elementary school was built pre-war (that is World War 2) and is still the only school in town, still is in service, and children aren't falling out sick and worse from illness from the building.
It's Not Teachers
March 22, 2013
"Be Careul" I have to disagree with you on another front: quality of education has somewhat to do with the teachers, but mostly to do with the parents. Which schools in any district struggle the most to educate young people? Those that are full of children whose parents are not involved in their education. A state of the art facility means nothing if parents are casual observers of their child's education. Unfortunately, parental involvement and concern cannot be effectively legislated, so we might as well give the teachers the best tools we can.
For the Kids
March 21, 2013
I'm glad that it passed again. I think that there are some things in this version of the tax that should have been taken care of a few years ago. With that being said I feel that if the kids benefits then all is well as long as if make sense financially. I feel that it does, but each election is different so I guess we will see in four years.
March 21, 2013

There you go again Cobb County.. READ MY LIPS. NO NEW TAXES... but old ones are fine.

Do as I say, not as I do!

No taxes! ... except for the taxes I want because I think I benefit from you paying them.
March 21, 2013
What? Why are you complaining about a sales tax renewal? Cobb is already tied with, I think, 7 other counties that have the lowest sales tax of 6%. That means the county's share of sales tax is only 2%. Also, Cobb has one of the lowest millage rates in the state, so the money has to come from somewhere. Personally, I would like to see the millage rate lowered and the sales tax raised. That way we are not getting all our tax money off of just Cobb residents. I wish the split penny sales tax bill would have passed.
jon venture
March 23, 2013
I don't mind paying taxes for the kids, but the lasr splost was used for road improvemenrs and to supplement city Police departments. I say no unless its strictly for education, but then if it approves someone will find ways to channel it elsewhere. So I say vote NO next election!!
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