Commissioner Bob Ott and School Board member Scott Sweeney held a joint town hall meeting at Sope Creek Elementary School last Tuesday. Commissioner Ott explained the new bridge over Sope Creek (http://eastcobb.patch.com/articles/sope-creek-bridge-plans-unveiled.) Mr. Sweeney explained the history of the Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) and the newest one (SPLOST4) that is up for renewal on March 19.
For instance, Mr. Sweeney said that before the first Education SPLOST, the normal way to fund capital improvements to the school system was through bond issues. In 1995, $221 million was raised in a bond issue for schools. The interest was $92 million. Education SPLOST4 is a five-year, 1-percent sales tax. It is not a new tax or an increased tax. It is a continuation of the Education SPLOST tax that has been in existence since 1995. Also, about 30 percent of the tax is paid by non-Cobb residents who live outside the county but work or shop in Cobb.
Both presentations were clear and informative. Both speakers answered questions from the audience. The only folks who weren’t informed or clear going into the meeting or leaving it were the small group of Tea Partiers who show up at most public meetings. They passed out an article from the East Cobber magazine where they had vented their misrepresentations and ignorance.
The Tea people complained that the election cost of about $300,000 was excessive. The audience understood that the Education SPLOST was going to save tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions of dollars to Cobb taxpayers. The Tea people wanted to save a little now and spend a lot later (penny wise, pound foolish). The process of selecting projects was also criticized as flawed with no specifics given or alternative method suggested.
Since the first Education SPLOST, 22 new schools have been built, 551 portable classrooms have been eliminated, bond debt of $184 million was paid off in 2007. Now, Cobb County is one of the few school districts in Georgia as well as the United States that is free of long-term bond debt.
The Cobb school board has a good website about our county schools with an informative link about the facts of the Education-SPLOST, like what projects are planned in your area. http://www.cobbk12.org/
How to register and vote? The Cobb Elections board has a VERY user-friendly website: http://elections.cobbcountyga.gov/
Work on election day? Most people do—vote by mail, AKA absentee ballot: http://elections.cobbcountyga.gov/pdf/2013/AbsenteeApplication2013_Special.pdf
Can I make copies of absentee ballot request forms and take to work or church? YES.
Do I need an excuse to vote by mail—out of town, sick, etc.? NO excuse needed.
I requested a ballot two weeks ago. It took a minute to fill-out. You can fax, scan and e-mail, or put your request in the mail. A ballot should arrive in my mailbox in a week or two.
What will be on the ballot? http://elections.cobbcountyga.gov/pdf/SampleBallot/2013/2013MarSampleBallot.pdf
The Tea people lost the debate at Sope Creek because moms and dads asked good questions and got good answers about financing quality public education in Cobb County. The Tea people always vote. Most moms and dads don’t even know that there is an election March 19 about funding Cobb Schools in the most fair and efficient way possible.
Without an Education SPLOST, Cobb will have to go back to the old ways of financing capital projects—bonds that will have to be paid back through increased property taxes.