Cobb school board defers vote to approve extra tax
by Hannah Morgan
October 10, 2013 12:55 AM | 3986 views | 15 15 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The Cobb Board of Education refused to stamp its approval on a newly proposed education tax Wednesday, deferring the action until its next board meeting.

The board was split during a discussion of the Local Education Sales Tax, a one-cent tax that would join the education SPLOST in funding schools in Cobb County, raising the sales tax to 7 cents on the dollar.

Board member David Banks asked that the Rev. John Crooks, a minister at Roswell Street Baptist Church who came up with the idea, to be allowed to explain it.

When board Chairman Randy Scamihorn declined his request, Banks pulled out a prepared statement, pleading with board members to sign a letter endorsing the tax that would be sent to various state organizations.

“We cannot continue to kick the can down the road and place our educational excellence in jeopardy,” Banks said.

The Georgia School Boards Association will not take a stance on the issue until it receives a document with the Cobb school board’s approval, Banks said.

A heated debate ensued, with board member Kathleen Angelucci and Tim Stultz strongly opposing the measure, and board members Brad Wheeler, Scott Sweeney and Banks in support of signing the letter. Scamihorn served as a moderator, repeatedly stopping board members from interrupting each other. Board member David Morgan left the meeting, citing a familial obligation.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa strongly supported the tax proposal, calling it, “a creative way to access some more revenue for our students, if the community votes to do so.”

Sweeney said the proposal, which would require a constitutional amendment, could potentially be used to reverse the increasing classroom sizes in Cobb, and restore the school system’s ability to comfortably balance its budget without using furlough days.

Stultz vehemently opposed adding yet another tax to the residents of Cobb County.

“It’s a cop-out, it’s for people who don’t have a spine,” who ran on conservative principles and are now advocating a tax increase, he said.

Stultz said it was one thing if the board wanted to eliminate property taxes altogether and fund the district solely through a sales tax. But to add another sales tax on top of property taxes and the SPLOST was just another tax increase.

“ I do not believe that we need to be taking any more money out of taxpayers’ pockets to pay for more taxes,” Stultz said.

Banks defended his idea, saying “this is pure democracy. The taxpayers make the decision on how they want to fund their school system.”

Scamihorn was unsure.

“If this is an added tax, then I’m not sure I can support it,” he added, asking, “Why is it up to one little county in the entire state of Georgia to do this? Why aren’t our state legislators carrying the ball?”

When Stultz said the tax would hurt seniors, Banks said Cobb’s senior citizen population would support an additional one percent tax increase for education.

All board members agreed that there were no simple solutions to the current budget’s expected $80 million shortfall, but they were divided on just where to find the extra funds.

“We do not have any tool in our bucket that is going to fix this problem,” Sweeney said, suggesting that the LEST tax was the only option.

“This is how taxes get passed. Fear mongering,” said Angelucci, “Once it starts, there’s no way to get away from it. I have no confidence that this wouldn’t be permanent,” she added, citing the continuous renewal of the county’s SPLOST tax.

Because of Morgan’s absence and the lack of public input on the matter, the board decided to move the discussion and a vote on whether to endorse the idea, to its next board meeting on Oct. 24.

“After reading this a couple of times, I believe it needs to be redrafted,” said Scamihorn, “It’s not clear what we are asking for in the letter.”

In other business, a debate over bidding out the county’s legal services resulted in the decision to take a “vote of affirmation” to continue with the same firm at the Oct. 24 meeting. Board attorney Clem Doyle said his firm has represented the county for nearly 20 years.

And the board decided to move the discussion of the district’s accreditation process to its November work session.





Comments
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Cobb History Teacher
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October 11, 2013
It’s time we find a new way to fund education. We as citizens cannot continue to demand the Mercedes Benz of education for our students yet at the same time only want to make a VW bug payment. As a current classroom teacher, with 15 years’ experience, in Cobb County schools I’ve watched our once great system suffer due to a lack of funding and resources. Most teachers I know would just like to see enough teachers hired to do the job right. We would like cost of living increases, but before that we need more educators. As of right now all we see is a reduction in resources, an increase in class sizes and a demand to produce a better product. Most of the teachers I know would like to see courses like reading and foreign language taught again, as well as increased choices for connections / elective classes, and enough teachers hired to offer small group instruction to students who need it. The system we have right now is broke in more ways than one.
Cobb History Teacher
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October 11, 2013
It’s time we find a new way to fund education. We as citizens cannot continue to demand the Mercedes Benz of education for our students yet at the same time only want to make a Volkswagen payment. As a current classroom teacher, with 15 years’ experience, in Cobb County schools I've watched our once great system suffer due to a lack of funding and resources. Most teachers I know would just like to see enough teachers hired to do the job right. We would like cost of living increases, but before that we need more educators. As of right now all we see is a reduction in resources, an increase in class sizes and a demand to produce a better product. Most of the teachers I know would like to see courses like reading and foreign language taught again, as well as increased choices for connections / elective classes, and enough teachers hired to offer small group instruction to students who need it. The system we have right now is broke in more ways than one.
anonymous
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October 10, 2013
OMG!!!! Since 2010 educators has a 2% decrease in salary and furlough days in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Teachers are working harder for less money. All of the outrage for Federal workers having furloghs, so WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE FROM APRENTS AND STAKEHOLDERS FOR OUR COBB TEACHERS?
@ Angelucci
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October 10, 2013
Angry-lucci can't have it both ways. She loudly proclaims she IS supportive of teachers, smaller class sizes, and fewer furlough days, yet is clearly unwilling to pay for it.

She drained the piggy bank to balance this year's budget and there's nothing left.

Can't wait to hear her solutions for the $80,000,000 the district is predicted to be short. Using an average salary of $50,000 - that translates to 1,600 jobs.
Ole Man 1
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October 10, 2013
I am a senior and oppose any additional sales tax.
Ole Man 2
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October 11, 2013
@ Ole Man 1, I oppose sales tax also. I think seniors should pay the school tax instead. It is past time for our state legislators to revoke the senior exemption.
Just Wait
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October 12, 2013
Seniors have paid their fair share to educate their kids and yours. Now it's your turn.
Cobb Taxpayer
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October 10, 2013
I am glad to see Mr Scamihorn not falling for the Banks and Crooks pitch. Totally agree this is an additional tax and where is the legislative input?

What information does David Banks have that shows senior citizens would support a one percent tax increase? We should not be kicking the can down the road, but kicking out board members that are not listening to the constituents. Banks should be the first to go.

Thanks to Kathy and Tim for their insight and standing for the tax payers.

Hinojosa should resign and move back to Texas.
Know the Tax Numbers
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October 10, 2013
Prior to furloughs, prior to increasing taxes, decision makers need to know how many millions of dollars Cobb has in delinquent / uncollected property taxes. Staff reports show a high collection percentage which is true. However it is the DELINQUENT and UNCOLLECTED REVENUE that needs to be addressed prior to increasing taxes. The office of the Tax Commissioner is empowered and has simple means to enforce these collections. We have plenty of delinquent properties held by non-Cobb companies and individual owners. You'd be surprised to know how many are delinquent by several years, yet they continue and us as residents, parents, teachers, students, health, and police and fire, take the hit. Need verification of the amount of Uncollected Revenues? You can look at the printout in the "vault" at the Tax Commissioner's office. It is open for public view. You'll be surprised and maybe even a little dissappointed that our schools' monies are right in front of you ready to be collected without burdening Cobb Taxpayers. Moreover you will be informed! And lastly, let's stop globally referring to property owners as taxpayers. Taxpayers are those that actually pay taxes and then again pay more taxes when millage rates or other rates spike. The others; non Taxpayers are.......
@ Hannah
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October 10, 2013
You can do better than this with your reporting -

This matter was about supporting potential LEST legislation.

The board is not taking a vote to impose a tax.

LEST is not the only option...

Option 1.) Do nothing

Result - teacher cuts, furlough days and larger classroom sizes

Option 2.) Pray that Georgia fully funds education

Result - At least God's ears are open, can't say the same for our legislature which is allowing public education to crumble

Option 3.) Wait it out until the economy improves

Result - It's going to take years for that that to happen, many years to get back to where this county was just a few years ago
anonymous
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October 10, 2013
Another $80 million shortfall is projected for next year already. The shortfall will likely be worse.

Stultz has no solution sans cuts. More furlough days and even larger classroom sizes.

He advocated cutting more than 500 teachers during a previous budget cycle.

One gets the impression that he's trying to gut the system so we won't have public education, or it will be so bad that no one would consider placing their child in the school system.

Stultz needs to tell the community what his solutions are for closing the budget gap.

By the way, $80 million works out to roughly $450,000 per day based on the state standard of 180 school days.

Classrooms are already busting at the seams - if Stultz was to suggest cutting more teachers, here's the simple math: $80 million translates into more than 1,000 teaching positions.
Jeff A. Taylor
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October 10, 2013
As usual, nothing is as it seems in Cobb schools.

Mr. Banks et al are rolling this out because they know that cobb's senior exemption for school property taxes will be in the crosshairs otherwise -- so long as the board refuses to do common sense things like contract out janitorial services or move to more online learning in the face of post-bubble financial realities.

If they really want a state law change that'll do some good, they should seek to modify existing ed SPLOST language so that it could be used for capital OR operational needs. Let the locals decide -- and take responsibility.

But see, that common sense approach would pit Cobb's teachers/admin against the local construction lobby for ed SPLOST spoils -- a win-win for the general public, but not for board members finely tuned to the needs of special interests. Plus the big fat kitty of the current senior exemption would still be in play, a wholly local matter.

Hence, the LEST.
Mischaracterization
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October 10, 2013
Reading this article, you'd walk away thinking that the board already has the authority to "approve" a tax.

Thankfully, they don't.

They still would not have the authority if proposed LEST legislation is passed.

2/3rds of the General Assembly and a majority of Georgia voters would need to support the LEST legislation allowing a referendum to be put before school district voters.
Suggestions Stultz?
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October 10, 2013
Stultz has not come up with one suggestion on how to fix the budget issue, other than, cutting teachers, raising class sizes and furlough days. Not one suggestion. He is useless and needs to go. At least Banks is trying to help teachers and students. Everyone else just suggests furloughs and increased class sizes. We are sitting with 30 kids in classes, SAT scores going down, and teachers leaving the profession. We are a minority majority school district and the minority part keeps growing because Cobb is going down hill.
FROM TEXAS
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October 10, 2013
David Banks is just a re-tooled Democrat he ran on fewer taxes less government and now him a tax inviter. You remember the first school SPLOST it’s just a onetime deal to get us through this year. The county waste a lot of tax dollar but the school board is wasting 60 to 70 percent of your hard earned tax money. David Banks is fuller of hot air than a Macy’s Day parade balloon! Thank God for Kathy Angelucci isn’t Scott Sweeney the guy that ran the Republican Party didn’t know he was so into taxes I’m sure in a while he will pop-up as a lobbyist for the school children. You dying elephant’s better figure out Ted Cruz and people like him are the only hope your party has or you’re going to be like the Dodo bird. Work on all that management cost and waste leave touch labor alone to do their jobs probably two or three managers to every one employee Kathy dig into that and the paper needs to as well.
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