SPLOST = Clayton St. campus?

Tue, 08/18/2009 - 4:10pm
By: John Munford

New tax already has opposition from anti-bypass group; 1¢ tax would raise $135 million over 6 years

Fayette County voters will get to exercise their power in a special election Nov. 3 on the fate of a new 1 percent sales tax that would take the place of the current but expiring transportation sales tax.

In the process, they may well be voting on a new satellite campus for Clayton State University.

The centerpiece of the $135 million SPLOST is a financial one: payoff of the remaining $55 million owed on the county’s justice center. Doing so would save $21.5 million in interest payments, officials said.

Other projects for the six-year SPLOST include $3.5 million to replace county fire stations located in the cities of Fayetteville and Tyrone; $5 million for a speculative university campus and $2 million for a new emergency operations center.

According to a column in today’s paper, that campus resident would likely be Clayton State–Fayette.

The Morrow-based university currently operates a satellite campus in rented office space in Peachtree City’s Westpark Walk

In his opinion column on Page A5, Kevin Demmitt, assistant vice president of academic outreach for CS-F, said the school is running out of space in its Westpark location.

“In evaluating an institution’s plans for opening a new site, one of the expectations of the University System is that local communities demonstrate a commitment to the new satellite location,” Demmitt writes. “[I]t also means investing some capital into a new or expanded venture.”

The SPLOST would provide that initial backing, he indicated. “Building an expanded CSU-Fayette facility will require some up-front capital investment. Given the current state of the budgets for local governments, the money in the proposed SPLOST that will be designated for the development of a local university may be a way to garner the necessary financial investment,” Demmitt writes.

The county is also proposing to spend $8.7 million on road, street and bridge improvements on arterial and collector roads including New Hope, Lee’s Mill, Tyrone, Sandy Creek, Hood and Westbridge roads.

Another $7.8 million would be spent for intersection improvements at:

• Ellison Road and Jenkins Road.

• Dogwood Trail and Tyrone Road.

• Peters Road at Ga. Highway 92.

• Goza Road and Old Greenville Road.

• Ebenezer Road and Spear Road.

• Redwine Road at Birkdale and Quarters Road

• Flat Creek and Tyrone Road.

• Ellison Road and Tyrone Road.

The county also plans to spend $11 million on “road street and bridge purposes” with no specific project list for those funds.

Also in the mix is $3.1 million for improvements of existing roads and $2.25 million for multi-use trail construction, renovation and improvement.

A new road is also on the county’s SPLOST project list: it would link First Manassas Mile Road with Ga. Highway 54. The project would be funded jointly by the county and the City of Fayetteville.

(Each city has its own list of SPLOST projects listed at the end of this article).

The way the SPLOST is structured, the county could use SPLOST funds to begin justice center payments in the 2011 fiscal year, freeing $3.9 million from the county’s general fund.

Commission Chairman Jack Smith said he would like to see the savings passed along to Fayette property owners in the form of an increased homestead exemption. He cautioned that the SPLOST cannot be tied to such a concept, however.

Smith predicted revenue shortfalls for the county in next year’s budget due to the decrease in property value upon which the county bases its property tax revenues. So far the county has used a hiring freeze, eliminated 27 non-critical positions and taken other actions to stay ahead of declining revenues, Smith said.

Smith noted the county has been able to avoid cutting its service levels so far, unlike many other local governments in metro Atlanta.

The election is being held the same day as the municipal elections in Fayette’s cities and towns. Due to the countywide SPLOST measure, the county will also open polls to all residents in the unincorporated areas.

The SPLOST measure already has an opponent in the form of the West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition, according to group spokesperson Dennis Chase.

Chase, addressing the commission during the public comment portion of the meeting, said the group would vote against the SPLOST and campaign to address many residents to support their anti-SPLOST views.

“So long as the board of Fayette County Commissioners is made up with these particular people, we will oppose any future SPLOSTs,” Chase said.

Later in the meeting, County Attorney Scott Bennett noted that the proposed SPLOST has a very specific project list, unlike the current transportation SPLOST which gave county officials wide latitude on which projects to spend the funds. The list of projects would be published in a legal advertisement and also on the SPLOST ballot itself, Bennett noted.

Bennett also added that none of the money in the new SPLOST could be spent on the West Fayetteville Bypass, which is now under construction.

In Peachtree City, the big ticket items for SPLOST funds includes $6 million set aside for street resurfacing and $2.9 million for cart path resurfacing, extensions and construction.

The city is also proposing to pay down $2.6 million in debt from the library and airport bonds along with another general bond issue. The city also would spend $2.81 million to pay off a lease purchase debt instrument.

Among other large-scale projects for Peachtree City include two cart path bridges at a cost of $1.9 million each: one over Hwy. 74 north and the other over Ga. Highway 54 east. Other cart path projects include $1.14 million for a tunnel underneath Rockaway Road to connect with Meade Field and $1.01 million for the path connections for a tunnel underneath Hwy. 74 south that will be located at the Rite-Aid pharmacy. The Rite-Aid tunnel will be built by the state as part of the highway road widening project due to start later this year.

Fayetteville’s proposed SPLOST projects include $1.2 million for bike, pedestrian and multi-use path improvements, $1 million for street resurfacing and another $1 million for citywide grid/connectivity projects.

Fayetteville is also projecting to spend $750,000 on intersection improvements citywide, $950,000 on median improvements and $400,000 for a roundabout at Redwine and Ramah roads.

On Fayetteville’s “alternate projects” list are $1.94 million for bond debt retirement and another $527,000 to retire capital project loans. Also on the alternate list is $750,000 for a well interconnection project and $492,800 for a streetscape on Ga. Highway 85.

Tyrone would receive up to $2.7 million over the six-year SPLOST, with $1.4 million going toward street resurfacing, milling, patching and shoulder enhancement. Tyrone is also expecting to spend $490,000 to pave gravel roads and $485,000 to realign roads.

Tyrone also projects to spend $200,000 on miscellaneous cart path extensions and $127,000 on intersection improvement projects.

The town of Brooks would receive $663,000 from the SPLOST, with $250,000 going toward sidewalks and $70,000 to a library renovation.

The town of Woolsey would receive $256,000 from the SPLOST and is proposing to use it on a community center.

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Submitted by ginga1414 on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 7:34am.

Mr. Martinez, no truer words have ever been spoken. I have teachers in my family and I can attest to everything you have said. Fayette County has for many years had the reputation for having the best schools in the State. That wasn't because of the administrators. It was beause of the teachers and parents. At one point parents and teachers worked hand in hand. Now, however, the parents and administrators have abandoned our teachers and children. Our teachers are dedicated and selfless believers in our children. It is absolutely heartbreaking they don't have the support they deserve. A teacher's day doesn't begin and end with the school bell. They do so much out of the classroom and spend so much of what little they are paid on our children that they are the ones who should have the millions of SPLOST dollars the County rakes in. So, Mr. Martinez, amen and amen, again and again.

Submitted by Just Saying on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 8:47pm.

Is this a joke? Are the taxpayers of Fayette County supposed to build a speculative university campus while we have 3 schools sitting empty? Maybe someone can speculate about leasing Rivers Elementary, the old Fayette County High School, or East Fayette Elementary to CSU. Or what about the thousands of square feet of empty retail space at the Pavilion?

These spend-spend-spend policies of our county government are crazy and out of touch. There's no way I would even consider voting for this ridiculous tax.

Submitted by ginga1414 on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 4:00pm.

Someone needs to check and see if Jack Smith sits on the Board at Clayton State University.

Jack Smith is the Chairman of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners. He sits on the Board of the Bank of Georgia along with many builders. The FDIC currently holds a cease and desist order against the Bank of Georgia. Jack Smith is trying to ramrod the West Fayetteville Bypass/Parkway through by urging Engineer Carlos Christian to speed up the process of acquiring the necessary permits for the road. While County Officials told the West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition that the County would not acquire property before the 404 Permit for crossing wetlands was secure, the County has, however, already purchased at least one house in the path of the Bypass/Parkway. According to what Mr. Christian said at a recent Commissioners meeting, the County hasn’t applied yet for the 404 Permit with the Corps of Engineers, but anticipates doing so in February 2010. There are over a thousand acres along the Bypass/Parkway owned by well-known wealthy developers. Just coincidences?

Chairman Jack Smith also sits on the Board of the Atlanta Regional Commission. The Atlanta Regional Commission and their consulting firm are the ones dictating traffic parameters in Fayette County, and the ARC paid 80% of the cost of the Fayette County Transportation Study. More coincidences?

I will NEVER vote in favor of another Fayette County SPLOST of any kind. The West Fayetteville Bypass was not listed on the last Transportation SPLOST Ballot. It was buried within County files. The West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition made a stink about that fact. The WFBC also had to search through two county departments to find any mention of the Bypass pertaining to the last Transportation SPLOST. We found it in a document titled Exhibit B. Miraculously, Exhibit B now appears on the County Website. AFTER THE FACT! Even more coincidences?

Does Jack Smith or any of our other commissioners sit on the Board of Clayton State University? It is a crying shame that we, the taxpaying voters, have to become private detectives in order to find out EXACTLY what transpires with our County Commissioners. Remember the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 6:08pm.

Knowing where roads were to be placed has been a bonanza for developers and politicians in Georgia ever since the Interstates started through here!

I know nothing about the Fayetteville by-pass but it shouldn't be hard to check the courthouse and compare the owners along the route to developers!

These kind of lands are bought up much earlier than the road is to be built. If they weren't the old owners would demand much more for the land than the developers pay early.

Sometimes the state has to "condemn" such land to get it when there is no agreement early!

You will have to make your own judgment just how it should be done!

Personally, I don't think those in a position to know the route should be able to buy it or inform anyone else to buy it.

Maybe an auction early?

matt.barnes's picture
Submitted by matt.barnes on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 9:30am.

There is no commitment from Clayton State. So lets say we the citizens vote for this and Clayton State goes somewhere else. Then what happens to that money? Do our county commissioners just take it and use it to fund their own little pet projects like the bypass? No thanks. I am not voting for SPLOST this time and quite frankly I am sick and tired of our local politicians using scare tactics and popular ideas like cart bridges and college campuses to convince us to increase our taxes just so they can fund there own personal interests. I will donate money to help build more cart paths, bridges and tunnels when they finish the existing projects.

grassroots's picture
Submitted by grassroots on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 9:09am.

Government coming up with ideas for a reason to tax is a ploy that Ronald Reagan exposed in a speech given 40 years ago. Don't believe them. They said they would payoff the bonds from the last SPLOST-the BoE just voted to not and extend the 15 year old interest bearing pork. They won't payoff the community center either. They said property taxes would go down-lie. Jack Smith said property values have gone down but nobody's told George Wingo. There is a 60% occupancy rate in our retail stores-how's more tax an incentive for them to come here? The County should be thinking of ways to draw in business not put the burden on their backs. WFB was passed in a hurry so that a justification for more money would be needed because that chunk of money was allocated on paper. The commissioners said "the people voted on it" when now Scott admits there was no specific use voted on. Guarantee, no new SPLOST, WFB gets put on hold and funds shuffled around. Fayette Forward is nothing but a SLPOST info-mercial disguised to justify the need for more tax to annex Atlanta at our expense. They want Marta and Atlanta and Fayette County to be one big happy growing family. The only people for SPLOST are govt workers, teachers and parents of students, otherwise they would have no chance. This year they will face strong opposition from groups more informed. Keep posted. And vote no on SPLOST>

Submitted by allegedteacher on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 2:24pm.

I did not vote for the ESPLOST last year and neither did many of my colleagues. And I won't vote for the new proposed SPLOST, either. I agree with grassroots that the most likely to vote in favor are those government works, teachers, and parents using only their short-sighted self interests to guide them. Just when I think I might come out a little bit ahead financially, Fayette County comes up with another method by which to take my money. I have paid the consequences of living outside my means and learned valuable lessons from it. The problem is that those individuals (members of the school board, town council, etc.)spending tax dollars on my behalf will not pay any such consequences, so no lessons learned. As for building a Clayton State campus, I just cannot convince myself of its urgency (neither did Dr. Demmitt convince me in his article). I am certainly committed to education, but let's focus on K-12 at the moment. Our schools have suffered huge losses in terms of personnel and resources (not to mention morale); I'm thinking it would be useful to put the horse before the cart just this once. Vote NO to the SPLOST!

Submitted by MacTheKnife on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 6:05pm.

Dear teachers,

Please accept my apology for the inept leadership we have placed in a position to impact you in such a negative way.

I learned (or was reminded)today that you have already lost over 6% of your pay, have not had a raise in years, have been paying increased costs and percentages for your health insurance and will most probably face additional cuts later this school year on top of what you have already experienced. Expect ten percent this year.

I also learned that those in charge of your finances have been the 12th worst money managers in the state out of over 200 systems. You are the best and they are the worst. How ironic and how unfair.

You certainly do not deserve this treatment and it is easy to see why moral among teachers is the lowest it has been since we came to the area some 25 years ago. It is also the lowest in the state I would imagine and that is saying something. Even Meriwether county teachers are not taking the pay-cut you were handed by the school board and the superintendent and no, no furloughs either.

Please realize, as I do, that you are the most significant people in the lives of our children other than us, the parents. Despite this, we demand and demean you. We do not schedule appointments with you we simply march in - yet you have as much or more college and professional training than most lawyers, some of you have more education and training that doctors, accountants, dentists, and yet we expect you to be at our every beck and call. We stood idly by as you were pushed beyond your limits. What is worse is that we watched you pay the burden of a bloated aristocracy of bureaucratic incompetents who passed the buck and the burden down to you while demanding you do more with less every year.

I have seen the massive number of applicants coming out of Fayette county and sympathize with you. The end of this glorious system is near. Over-hiring and over-reaching by R. Ellis, human resources, has caused you to have more teachers and fewer students while empty buildings sit idly, and your pay and benefits are slashed.

Yet, you have done more with less. Despite poorly drawn boundaries, and wasted money in construction, you have made the scheme work and work well. Your credentials are impeccable and your accomplishments are laudable. Your expertise is unsurpassed.

Yet, as if to add insult to injury, you have a barely coherent 'Human Resources Director' who has hoodwinked your school board. You have tolerated this Atlanta import (that has a reputation of harassing your employees and over spending, over reaching, and micromanaging), a Comptroller who is a joke among her peers that cannot give information in a way that allows your dolt laden school board to make decisions, a public relations office in complete disarray with no affect (or effect) whatsoever, and a school board that cannot agree on anything or plan effectively but can certainly sell land belonging to their relatives at a ridiculous cost, in a lousy location and with 100 acres left over to drag along while you cut the pay of those who actually ARE competent - you teachers.

So, rather than to ramble along endlessly about the self appointed NAACP officer and human resources diva and general racial agitator who has already been through at least 5 secretaries in the last three years, and without reflecting upon the wasted money hiring consultants or housing 65 students in a school built for 650, and without bringing to your attention the fact that the county support staff actually uses three buildings (two schools and the Stonewall Ave. building) I will simply say "I am truly sorry".

I for one appreciate the hard work and long hours you put in. I see building administrators and coaches/teachers every night at events but I have yet to see a board member of a central office person attend any of them (unless DeCotis' kids are involved). I appreciate that I was given an opportunity to see and enjoy this area before the current crop of Atlanta Public School rejects took over human resources. I appreciate that I was here before all of Clayton County schools (what a model of achievement they are) sent the transportation director and CW Campbell here without being experienced or qualified.

In short, I LOVE how the building level personnel are always involved and engaged and I cannot believe we as a community have stood by while you were humiliated, dismantled, harassed and mistreated by the incompetent leadership of a dysfunctional school board and a county office full of lazy morons making too much money, working too few hours, and running our school system in the ground.

People of Fayette, your home values depend on those teachers. Treat them well and they will make your community the best it can be.

Teachers, the board is punishing you for their sins.

Unless and until the community feels the impact of the board's and county office's failed leadership and mis-management (i.e., has to find a sitter on your furlough days, has canceled school programs, etc.) you will continue to be strapped with trying to do more with less while your moral is stomped on by the boots of the ungrateful management of the county office and board of education. And no one will notice except those of us who see our children's dreams smashed by the failed leadership of a bloated bureaucracy and wave goodbye as our children and grandchildren move away to better things.... things that were once right here. Yes, like my daughter - a teacher who sold her home and will be moving next year because, as she put it, "I have given them all I can and I have nothing left to give".

Folks, I will miss my daughter and grandson. You will miss your property values.

We will all miss the wonderful teachers that we watched being humiliated, embarrassed, used and mis-used by an overpaid and ungrateful team of incompetent self described 'leaders'.

These teachers have indeed given their all while we cut their pay on short and long notice at a time when taxes climbed, the cost of living rose, and the challenges of meeting with success were constantly increased. Again, teachers, I truly apologize.

Jarrod Martinez Jr

Submitted by allegedteacher on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 5:58am.

Mr. Martinez, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU...for the time and thought you put into your message. Your words have built UP my morale so much more than any of the words of my "superiors" in the school system. I sincerely appreciate what you have expressed, and I am sure many, many of my colleagues who read your message feel the same. I wish the administrators in our schools would take the same approach and dish out a little SINCERE praise...it doesn't cost much and it goes a very long way. Again, many thanks!

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 7:19am.

that just got taken advantage of like the taxpayers. They wanted to believe the ESPLOST was going to save their salery, I'm sure as they were told on these little 'email trees' then after the elections were over the 'dodo' hit the wall.

The rest of us felt we knew what was going to happen to them, but my God! It was sooo soon after the elections...it was so COLD!!!!

Submitted by heatjam on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 7:05pm.

Dead on the money!!!!!!

Submitted by PTC32YEARS on Tue, 08/18/2009 - 8:52pm.

If the old one is expiring, this would take the place of it thus keeping the current tax rate. So in essence, there would be no new tax. Of course, everyone has their view of the subject.

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 08/19/2009 - 4:52am.

Like saying that the federal IRS is expiring but we are going to extend it....so, no new tax!

Sure doesn't get rid of a tax does it?

As to Clayton University MAYBE using some thing we build...maybe when they sign saying they will we could consider it!
This is a trick just to get the SPLOST!

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