On Tuesday, March 19, a few dedicated voters will go to the polls to decide for the entire county whether we should continue to tax ourselves 1 percent on everything we purchase—from home goods to electronics to groceries. There are several groups advocating for each side of this particular ballot question. I'd like to address why I believe you should vote No tomorrow.
First, a No vote doesn't mean no forever. There are plenty of issues with this SPLOST vote including timing and the project list itself. Voting no tomorrow doesn't mean that we can never have another SPLOST. It simply means that this particular proposal doesn't meet our true needs.
Secondly, we know that tomorrow we should expect roughly 10 percent of the registered voters in Cobb to cast their vote. That's approximately 42,000 total votes out of the roughly 420,000 registered voters in Cobb. So if the SPLOST tomorrow is approved and it's a very close vote, as is expected, then roughly 21,000 people, or 3 percent of the county's 700,000 residents, are placing this tax on the entire county. We just had an election this past November. Why didn't the school board ensure that this referendum was placed on the ballot when we knew turnout was going to be at its highest? Do they really believe it's right for 3 percent of the county to approve a tax for the entire county? I would rather have this vote in a general election year when we know the highest number of voters will turn out to vote—either a presidential or gubernatorial November election.
Thirdly, looking at the project list we see that there is over 3 times as much allotted for secondary gymnasiums and theaters as the instructional and learning resources category. Have recreational activities really become that much more important than our children’s education?
Fourth, we need to look at how much it's going to cost to operate these new gymnasiums and theaters. Keep in mind that the Cobb County School District already has a roughly $80 million budget deficit, and they're not quite sure yet how they're going to close that gap. I'm sure there will be some furlough days for teachers in there and possibly even some layoffs. But these new facilities included in the SPLOST won't be operated out of SPLOST monies. The maintenance and operation of the new facilities comes out of the system's general budget. So how many more days will we have to furlough teachers to operate these new facilities? How many layoffs will be required to keep the lights on, the heating and air conditioning running, and staff them?
The proponents of this SPLOST want you to not let perfect be the enemy of the good. But this SPLOST is not good. It is far from it. I urge each of you to vote No on this measure, let's re-group and develop a project list that we can all support—a project list that is actually geared towards improving education. I would like to see the school board invite members from the Georgia Tea Party and the Cobb Taxpayers Association (both of whom oppose this particular SPLOST) to join them in fixing the project list and putting the referendum up for a vote at an appropriate time. But for now, we have to say no. Not this SPLOST, not this time.