EAST COBBER February issue

Page 17

Vote NO on the Education SPLOST By Lance Lamberton On March 19 Cobb voters will be asked to decide whether to approve yet another Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), in this case an Education SPLOST put forward by the Cobb County School Board. If passed, it will impose an additional $718 million tax levy on purchases made in Cobb over the next five years, starting in January 2014.

facilities, and expansion of sports and recreation facilities (like two gyms at every high school) which have little to do with the mission of the District, which is to educate. For example:

The most glaring issue with this SPLOST is that it puts the cart before the horse. Since the District has calculated that it can get $718 million over five years by continuing the sales tax, they’ve developed a project list to coincide with anticipated revenue. Instead, it should first develop a true needs list and then present a SPLOST which is in line with those needs.

Consequently, there are many projects on the District’s wish list of dubious value. For example, the proposed Career Academy, with a price tag of $30 million. There are many unanswered questions with respect to this facility. Where will it be located, how much will the land cost, what criteria will be used to determine who can attend, how will students be transported to the Academy, how will the District pay for teachers, administrative salaries or maintenance?

• Interior and exterior painting at $7.2 million. • New schools to replace existing schools which don’t need to be replaced. • Adding new theaters to five high schools. • $4.5 million for track resurfacing. • $1 million for tennis courts. While these are nice things to have when money is no object, (which is never the case) I have to ask how critical new gyms and theaters are towards achieving our educational mission, especially when this SPLOST allocates three times as much for these items than it does for learning and instructional purposes. Adding to these concerns is the issue holding a special election for this SPLOST, when it can be held during a general election or primary, thereby saving taxpayers $300,000. This is done to discourage voter turnout, where spending interests have a greater stake in its passage than the citizenry at large.

In response to these concerns, Superintendent Hinojosa has offered a series of vague reassurances. With transportation he said we’ll “figure out a way to get there.” With respect to maintenance costs, he said “We still have to work out the details.” With regard to staffing, he said they would begin looking at that in January of 2013, just two months before the March vote. In fairness to those of us asked to foot the bill, we deserve more transparency before we agree to giving the District a blank check.

This is not to say that Education SPLOSTS should never be passed, but the one before us now is hastily conceived and fraught with wasteful spending priorities. As such, it is time for the voters to tell the District to go back to the drawing board and give us a SPLOST which is truly deserving of our support.

Another concern is that the SPLOST was established by state law to pay for expansion of existing facilities to accommodate growing student enrollment, yet there is woefully little of that in this project list, and most of the money goes towards routine maintenance, replacement of serviceable

Lance Lamberton has been a Cobb resident since 2001, and is the president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, which is leading a grass-roots effort to defeat the Education SPLOST.

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