As I have said many times, DeKalb is a county with deep feelings toward its schools, both positive and negative. And that is apparent in the number of e-mails I am getting from DeKalb readers on Tuesday’s SPLOST vote.
Here is one that I want to share because its author is school board member H. Paul Womack, Jr.
I hate that I have to remind Get Schooled posters to focus on the issue, not on the personalities. But that message has not reached everyone. Please feel free to flag comments as those notes are taken seriously by my editors to whom flag requests go.
Now, back to the note from Womack:
I have served on the DeKalb County Board of Education for more than 14 years, but I’m writing this today as a taxpayer and citizen.
I’m not one to respond to every critic, nor someone who participates in every online conversation about DeKalb County. But I’m writing this today in response to some serious misinformation being distributed by politicians and others about the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST IV, which will be decided by county voters on Nov. 8.
Without getting into a public debate, I will take this opportunity to provide some facts about the SPLOST, and let voters decide for themselves, based on accurate information
First, I’d like to clarify something about the last SPLOST. It’s been stated by a candidate for City Council that there was some $30 million in waste in SPLOST III, and that is completely untrue.
The taxpayers of DeKalb County voted for every dollar that was spent in SPLOST III, and by law the school system had to proceed only with projects approved by the taxpayers. These taxes must be spent on projects as promised, and not on bureaucracy.
In fact, the last SPLOST replaced four high schools and made significant improvements to our facilities on time and under budget.
As a conservative, you may ask why I would talk about a tax of any kind. But as a conservative, I prefer consumption taxes like the SPLOST to income and property taxes that punish hard work, savings and investment.
More than 30 percent of SPLOST revenue comes from consumers outside of DeKalb County, and without the SPLOST, the Board of Education would have to look at raising property taxes to improve our schools, which I am philosophically opposed to.
Questions also have come up in the media surrounding the School System’s Administrative and Instructional Complex, which was built under the last SPLOST. Most of the criticism has been about the central office, and it has been suggested that the central office was put on the list of SPLOST projects after the fact.
The fact is that the current complex – and all of its components – was advertised on the public SPLOST brochure and described on the resolution when it went before the voters in 2007. The complex also includes two working high schools, populated by hundreds of students each day, a bus repair facility and the public meeting room for the Board of Education, as well as the School System’s central offices.
People have said that the central office is bloated. On this point, we may have some agreement. We have some strong professionals at the central office, but I have always advocated for the administration to be as lean and efficient as possible.
That’s why I am in full support of Superintendent Atkinson’s recently announced review of Central Office staff. That review will begin in the next few weeks, and I look forward to its conclusions, which will be presented to the Board of Education in January.
I urge DeKalb voters to learn the facts, make up their own minds and vote based on their own opinions, and either pro or con, I hope you’ll participate in this vote on Nov. 8. I’ll see you at the polls.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog