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Cobb Schools SPLOST IV List Totals $717M

The final consultant's report to the Board of Education is the basis for a possible referendum in early 2013.

The thick, heaving binders handed out to Cobb Board of Education members Wednesday detailing $717 million in school construction and improvement needs are also packed with wish lists more than double that dollar amount.

A final presentation made to board members at the work session hammered down $2 billion in requests to match the anticipated revenue that would come from an extension of the current one-cent local option sales tax for the Cobb County School District that stops at the end of 2013.

Public hearings are slated to discuss the possible SPLOST this fall, and it will be up to the board to decide whether to turn it into a referendum.

In the meantime, the 209-page "SPLOST IV notebook" (see the accompanying PDF) will be sent back out to Cobb school communities for feedback.

Prepared by Marietta consulting firm Education Planners, the document outlines projects including the creation of two new career academies, the overhaul of Osborne High School, the replacement of three elementary schools, and the submitted desires of every school in the district that were not included in the final proposal.

"This is a balanced notebook at this time," Chris Ragsdale, the Cobb deputy superintendent for operational support, told the board during the presentation. "If you want to add something to it, something else must be taken out. This is a needs-based project list."

Each of the career academies—proposed by Superintendent Michael Hinojosa for students who are not college-bound—would cost nearly $30 million of an estimated $159 million in replacement facility expenses. 

The same price tag would be attached to the redevelopment of Osborne High School, which Education Planners founder James Wilson said would be a "mirror image" to ongoing renovations at Wheeler High School in East Cobb. 

Replacing the three unspecified elementary schools would cost $23 million apiece.

Another $122 million in additions and modifications—primarily for gymnasium and theater improvements, among other projects—are slated for Campbell, , Lassiter, North Cobb, Pope, South Cobb, Walton and Wheeler high schools and Mount Bethel, Sope Creek and Tritt elementary schools in East Cobb. 

Infrastructure and individual school needs would be earmarked for $176 million, and $150 million more is pegged for curriculum, instruction and technology needs. 

While board members asked a few detailed project questions during the work session, chairman Scott Sweeney told his colleagues: "We're going to have ample time to talk about this. I think this is going to evolve as we get community feedback."

While board members have acknowledged the needs are great, none have indicated whether they support calling for a referendum. 

The political history of the school SPLOST might be instructive in light of current anti-tax sentiment in Cobb, which passed a county government SPLOST extension in 2011 and the metro Atlanta TSPLOST referendum that went down to defeat in July. 

After years of issuing school construction bonds, the Cobb school board's first attempt at a SPLOST referendum was defeated in 1997, Wilson said. The following year, he added, "we were better prepared, and it passed, and it has passed ever since. 

"It's important that we do this SPLOST correctly."

Would you support SPLOST IV? Tell us in the comments.

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