E-SPLOST an investment in our home values

John Munford's picture

Judging by the smaller crowds I’ve seen in local restaurants lately, it’s safe to say my family is not the only one feeling the financial pinch here in Fayette County.

We are dining out less. We’re spending less.

Yet I have no problem paying another $150 to $200 a year for the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST), so I’ll be voting for it on the ballot.

It’s an investment in the value of my home. Most all of us moved here for the excellent school system and a very safe environment in which to raise our families.

Just like us, the school system has been tightening its fiscal belt this year. They have used attrition to leave 58 positions unfilled, saving an estimated $3.03 million. Among those positions are 14 elementary teachers, 10 elementary paraprofessionals, nine middle school teachers, 10 high school teachers and 9.5 positions in the central office.

This year they’ve also had to cut the projected bus and computer acquisitions needed to remain on an adequate replacement schedule, as both such assets wear out over time.

Next year, they will need to replace 5,700 computers, estimated at $5.7 million.

Our school system has been hit with $21.7 million in state funding cuts over the past six years. Until now, they’ve been able to avoid drastic cuts.

Schools Superintendent Dr. John DeCotis told me a few weeks ago that it’s no longer an option. If the E-SPLOST doesn’t pass, they’ll have no choice but to cut programs, he said.

Among the cuts to be considered for future years include a number of positions including central office staff, leadership positions at schools such as assistant principals and counselors, and a variety of teaching positions, including art, music and band.

Also on the potential chopping block would be first grade paraprofessionals and a reduction of kindergarten paraprofessionals from one per class to two per class. Mind you, this is when children are learning to read, and without parapros to provide individualized attention, we can expect those children to get slower starts at the very least and perhaps fall far behind their peers, which is unacceptable.

Another item mentioned as a possible cut is a reduction in salary system wide to the tune of $3 million.

All those potential cuts are based on the fact that the school system gets either no state funding or only partial state funding for those positions, according to information I received from the school system.

If the E-SPLOST passes, there won’t be a need for those cuts and the school system will have funds for school renovations along with technology, safety and security improvements. They’ll also use the money for school buses, transportation and maintenance equipment and even will pay off some of the outstanding bonds the school owes, deriving a savings in interest payments and a reduction in property taxes.

Technology is a crucial item on this wish list. If our children aren’t exposed to it now, they’ll be far behind their peers as years go by. The school system has been investing in training for teachers to help bring technology into more use in the classroom, but without new computers and associated technology there’s no way they can stay relevant, much less prepare students for the economy of tomorrow.

Never mind that the current generation of students is already plugged in at home. Being able to engage their minds using computers is a big plus and will better prepare them for the workforce.

Now, to address some criticisms of the E-SPLOST initiative:

• Critics say it will unfairly tax seniors, who benefit from a property tax break from school taxes.

While yes, seniors would pay more than they do now, by no means will it break their bank. My household, with a family of four, will pay between $150 and $200 for the E-SPLOST each year, by my quick figuring. It’ll be significantly less for seniors, especially those living on fixed incomes.

A recent survey of Fayette residents ages 55 and up by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government showed the average person in that demographic has lived here for 16 years.

In that time frame, their home values have gone through the roof. When they sell their home, they will see the economic windfall from their investment in local schools.

• Other critics point to the new elementary school that’s being built on Sandy Creek Road despite the recent reduction in the elementary school population the past two years. Critics say it’s “reckless spending” by the school board.

Yet part of the reason the system trudged ahead with Rivers Elementary is to avoid the spiraling construction costs, which would increase an estimated 15-20 percent should the project have been built two or three years later, according to school officials.

It was also pointed out that the Atlanta Regional Commission still projects Fayette’s population to continue increasing until at least 2030, so the need for schools will exist in the future, school officials contend.

If Rivers Elementary opened today, it would have 434 students and there would be 505 at Burch, and while those are small student bodies they “are close to ideal sizes for elementary schools,” school officials told me.

• Then there’s the claim that the public was “blind-sided” because the school board didn’t vote on E-SPLOST until after the June election, in which all three incumbents were re-elected to their positions (though one, Janet Smola, faces a write-in opponent in the general election).

My knee-jerk reaction, at first, was the same as the critics. I leapt to the assumption that the E-SPLOST, and the financial need for it, were purposefully withheld or at least “played down” prior to the election.

Then I got to thinking. There’s no way our school board is that politically stupid. Three of them were politically smart enough to get re-elected this year.

So certainly they are politically smart enough to know if they create ill will even with a perceived misstep, their chances of passing the E-SPLOST are slim and none. In their defense, the latest round of state sales tax cuts, attributed to the severe downturn in state sales tax collections, weren’t announced by the state until after the election.

In a perfect world, the school board would have made its E-SPLOST decision months before the election, and maybe even had a few informational open houses on the matter before the election. But I long ago gave up on the dream of this being a perfect world.

The one claim you won’t be hearing from E-SPLOST critics is that our school system isn’t doing its job. All Fayette schools continue to meet federal education standards, commonly known as AYP, short for adequate yearly progress. The counties surrounding us can’t make that claim.

And Fayette’s SAT score was 37 points better than the national average, and 76 points ahead of the state’s average score.

The results speak for themselves.

So there you have it. All things considered, I’ll pony up my fair share to keep improving our schools. I hope you’ll join me, as the future of our investments — both in real estate and in future students — depend on it.

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Tug13's picture
Submitted by Tug13 on Sat, 10/25/2008 - 10:26am.

I am very disapointed in you! Sad
I voted against the Splost and wrote in Nicole File!

Tug Smiling

Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Thu, 10/16/2008 - 10:07am.

What's so bad about holding fast and making necessary cuts in the middle of nasty economy? I know if you lost your job next week, you wouldn't be singing about the ESPLOST.

Ask the poor guys from Panasonic what they think about more taxes.

And those $1,000 computers, totally nuts!

Vote Republican

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Thu, 10/16/2008 - 5:54am.

DiCotis and Munford, that is.
The system has an awful lot of fat in it and like most bloated organizations, it should trim back to the basics.
We are in a recession, or will be when this quarter's results are reported and that's what you do if you want to survive - cut back.
Just go ahead and start making a list of cuts because the spolst is not going to pass.

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Thu, 10/16/2008 - 5:56am.


CCB's picture
Submitted by CCB on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 9:56pm.

It looks right now, John, that we've OVER invested. I heard there's over 2,000 spaces for kids open.

You really didn't prove how this particular E-SPLST was going to boost our home values. I mean, the previous two E-SPLOST failures didn't decrease our home values did they??

Maybe we get a federal bailout.

alittlebirdietoldme's picture
Submitted by alittlebirdietoldme on Thu, 10/16/2008 - 6:33am.

i choose to vote to cut the over-inflated salaries of FCBOE higher-ups

bad_ptc's picture
Submitted by bad_ptc on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 7:04pm.

“Yet part of the reason the system trudged ahead with Rivers Elementary is to avoid the spiraling construction costs, which would increase an estimated 15-20 percent should the project have been built two or three years later, according to school officials.”

Using that same logic, State and Federal Govts. should be building roads long before we ever need them to avoid cost increases.

Delta Airlines should be hording new airplanes so they can save on the increased cost in the future.

Let me ask you John, have you bought both your kids cars yet so that you can avoid the increased cost of purchasing them later? When they’re old enough to drive?

Have you got the $150,000/child for their college educations squirreled away yet? I don’t.

“In that time frame, their home values have gone through the roof. When they sell their home, they will see the economic windfall from their investment in local schools.”

When they sell their homes? Their children will sell their homes once they’re dead. These people are retired and have no intention of selling their homes and moving to Hawaii.

WSB News

“Zillow.com's latest Real Estate Market Report shows values have dropped 8.3 percent within ten miles of downtown Atlanta while values have fallen less in cities 10 to 20 miles out like in Chamblee and Douglasville. The report shows cities 20 to 30 miles out like Duluth and Woodstock fell 7.4 percent and 5.5 percent in cities 30 to 40 miles out like Dacula and Sugar Hill.”

“It was also pointed out that the Atlanta Regional Commission still projects Fayette’s population to continue increasing until at least 2030…”

That’s about as lame as the Chairman of the Planning Commission telling everyone last Monday night that PTC needs another 160+ $250,000 townhouses so that his newly graduated daughter, a teacher, can afford to live and work here.

Damn, just what does a new teacher with the FCBoE make? It must be more than me and I’ve been working for over 30 years.

It’s also a fact that state officials’ said that we’d have lite-rail by now too. Can you tell me where the parking lot is?

Oh and don’t forget that Iraq has WMD’s and the Easter bunny is real.

Bottom line, MORE MONEY doesn’t equal BETTER GRADES. In reference to the FCBoE, MORE MONEY equals LESS ACCOUTABILITY.

Submitted by heatjam on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 6:31pm.

You say that the 3 were politically smart enough to be reelected this summer...WE HAVEN"T HAD THE ELECTION YET!!!! NOBODY HAS BEEN ELECTED!!!

Go Nicole!!!!

gelato's picture
Submitted by gelato on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 3:53pm.

Although Mr. Munford wrote very eloquently in favor of the E-Splost, there are many points I feel still need to be addressed. I certainly agree with the fact that people are dining out less, and last night when I entered a pharmacy, I was the only customer in the establishment. For the most part, we have become more cautious with our spending, and are putting our pennies aside; not knowing what the future is going to bring. That should have been the attitude of the FCBOE for the past several years, and unfortunately they didn't have the proper sense of civil responsibility to do so. I have been following their every move since last January, and don't want to be patronized by being told that they have exercized proper judgement in the spending of the tax payer's money. If Dr. DeCotis is so concerned about the E-Splost not passing, why is he not as equally concerned about the moral, public and embarrassing behavior of some of the members of the Board? Has he not been following the news and realizing what an embarrassment Mrs. Smola and Mrs. Smith are to the FCBOE with their she said-she said antics? These are grown adults, for goodness sake, who have proven to the community to be tactless, immature, and position-greedy. Regarding the summer election, let's face the facts. The election was held in the middle of July, when many of the citizens of our county were away, taking advantage of the last few weeks before school began. The turnout for that election was pitiful, and as a general rule, people will automatically vote for an incumbent. I cannot credit the elected FCBOE members as politically smart, but rather politically sneaky. I don't think the results were barely out, when the announcement for the E-Splost was made, advertising the FCBOE meeting at which it was going to be publicized the very same day. That didn't give the county residents much time to get there - did it? Once again, I label them politically sneaky! As a senior citizen, I want my property value to hold or even to increase, and do not have a problem paying the extra tax - but my problem is the people who are administering this money. I do not trust any of the present board members. Why are only the Arts being considered as cuts and not sports? Don't know where the facts came from, but this I know: I live in a very nice PTC neighborhood with a lovely home, but my property value has not gone through the roof! Dr. DeCotis and the Board should have been much more cautious, and I for one would like to know what Plan B is if the E-Splost does not pass - or are they so arrogant that no Plan B was ever drafted? I definitely agree with Mr. Munford's statement of "the results speak for themselves," because the results of irresponsible spending, unnecessary investments and lack of judgement in not thinking what the future may bring now has us in a very bad place. The result of our present FCBOE definitely speaks for itself. Let us not be sucked into thinking that we are doing our community a favor by voting for the E-Splost - we will only be feeding the egos and irresponsibiity of the FCBOE.

Submitted by wifey on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 8:48pm.

The Arts are considered over sports because sports are not funded by the BOE (local or state). Sports are entirely supported by good old fashioned fund-raising by the booster clubs and gate receipts. So what's next on the chopping block? Fine Arts and personnel. What's left? Let's cut more teachers so class sizes will be 35 and then talk about test scores. Good luck with that!

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 5:41pm.

Gelato hit every note. Smith and Smola have acted badly and Smola's actions over the signs was an embarssement. She doesn't get that.

"Yet I have no problem paying another $150 to $200 a year for the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST), so I’ll be voting for it on the ballot."



suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 5:48pm.

and one thing only. The involvement of parents and teachers...IT IN NO WAY PROVES IF WE GIVE SMOLA AND SMITH MORE MONEY, they are gonna make our kids smarter by building schools in the boonies where only developers have...large...and I do mean large, tracts of land.

The proof is in the trail... the trail of the SAT scores moving from SCHS, WWHS, and FCHS...to Coweta county!

All 3 Coweta High Schools beat the above Fayette county scores. These are the children of the people who have moved from Fayette to Coweta cause they are fed up with Smola's dream and BS!

Too many people see what these people are doing...as oppose to what they are saying. They are no longer baffled by the do do.

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 5:50pm.


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