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Proponent, opponent for Newton SPLOST speak at forum

COVINGTON — Both sides of a proposed education SPLOST had a heated discussion at a forum Tuesday night.

A grassroots organization, the Patriots’ Table, held a SPLOST forum at the Newton County Library that featured Danny Stone, co-chair of the SPLOST election, speaking in favor of the measure and resident Dennis Taylor speaking in opposition to it.

During the forum, Stone presented some of the items that SPLOST IV would fund:

• Half of it is expected to fund property tax relief, paying off 1.9 mills in bond debt service from January 2015 until December 2019. The bonds were issued to pay for school construction.

Stone noted that previous education SPLOSTs did not pay debt — they mostly dealt with building schools because of continued growth. He added that he preferred a sales tax paying for education since everybody who buys something in Newton County would pay for it, not just homeowners.

“It’s the fairest way to spread it out,” he said.

• SPLOST IV also would provide nearly $4 million for a Viewpath S.A.F.E. security system at each school that would put cameras in every classroom. The program is being piloted at Newton High School, and school administration has said that it has improved student behavior and increased rigor by providing access to teacher lessons.

Stone added that when NCSS put cameras on school buses, student behavior and safety improved.

• SPLOST also is expected to fund $17 million worth of school technology and $11 million worth of school maintenance. It also could purchase about 75 buses for nearly $10 million.

“If (the money) isn’t there, it will have to be taken from the general fund,” Stone said, adding that most of that fund is to pay employee salaries and programs, which SPLOST legally can’t fund because of state laws.

• If enough funding is available, Stone said that the system could use $3 million of the SPLOST funds to construct a new Eastside High School, which would have its current building turned into the parent-involvement theme school that is currently housed at Ficquett Elementary School, a building that is no longer part of state funding and has little room for expansion.

Stone said the project is the last priority on the list, even though it is listed first on the actual referendum, and would be completed only if enrollment warranted it and the state would provide enough funding to complete it.

During the forum, Taylor voiced some of his 23 reasons why he’s against SPLOST.

“Eastside High School is not but 18 years old — that should get you to go down and get you to vote no,” Taylor told the audience. “All they want you to hear is one side.”

He said he’s not against teachers or school safety — he would prefer that the election be held in November instead of during March for a special election that costs extra money, and he also would prefer to have armed deputies put into schools, rather than have the proposed security system set up.

Stone added that school resource officers are currently in each middle and high school.

“You’ll know more about what you need in 2014,” Taylor said.

He also added that the tax would equate to 10 mills in property taxes.

“They will never tell you when they have enough money. It’s up to us as taxpayers,” Taylor said. “They’ll keep coming back to you … and keep spending and wasting. The only way to stop them is to tell them no.”

Stone said that the Newton County School System was supposed to receive $53 million more from the state than it has received over the past seven years based on the state’s formula, so already the system has had to make cuts in staff and furlough days and he fears more cuts would have to be made if the system had to fund the proposed projects.

“The school board has to do all they can do to meet the budget to provide education in this community,” he said. “I think we’re making strides in the right direction. … I think we need to continue to work with our Board of Education … to make sure our students get a quality education.”

The special election is set for March 19. Early voting is under way and will continue until March 15.

Comments

amp72 1 year, 6 months ago

$4 million for a camera system that is supposed to improve student behavior? Garbage. How about getting some of those overpaid administrators actually doing their jobs in an effort to help teachers control some of these behaviors? When teachers try to punish kids for poor behavior and they get a slap on the wrist and are sent back to class then you have a problem. So much money is wasted on cushy salaries at the higher levels. We shouldn't have to rely on $4 million in cameras to keep kids in line.

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eyewitness 1 year, 6 months ago

Why was there a quorum of the board of education present and speaking out at this meeting? Is that their right as a quorum? Check the law. And 3 Million to replace EHS? Someone has bad math here they have allotted 45 Million to replace Eastside High School. Again when 3 or more are gathered as a quorum on a SPLOST forum someone needs to check the law.

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Bemused 1 year, 5 months ago

I believe it was stated at the beginning of the forum that all members of the school board were invited. Only 3 showed up to answer the questions of the public. Speaks volumes to me of the two that didn't show.

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ThePublicGood 1 year, 5 months ago

I agree. It speaks volumes that the 3 who did met in an unpublicized quorum on a public matter.

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mrsfingerprints 1 year, 5 months ago

Was there truly a quorum present of the school board at the only public forum of their own Splost? Who were they?

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henrystamm 1 year, 5 months ago

No more taxes, and make it stick. They again are conning our citizen to vote for a spending our tax money. The con is on again. We need a law that tax questions can only be held at a federal election day like for president and congressmen. That at least will curb the corrupt politicians. We need a better way to select a school board. The stupid electorate has no idea who they vote in! May be it will be better if the leader of the county appoints the members and the board of commissioners approve of them and a two term of 2 years will be imposed. Just suggesting, even I did not really know who to vote for here in Newton County because of the lake of information. We selected one that was heavily finance by the black racists outsiders. She now will be elected years after years. Sad.

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TheUpside 1 year, 5 months ago

@Bemused - you clearly jump to conclusions. What if they had a conflict or what if they play by the rules? It was not a school board event but a majority of the board showed up to comment publicly about a public matter. Check the law on Open Meetings.

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Duster 1 year, 5 months ago

Cameras in the classrooms? Cameras on the busses? But how many of them are working? And How have they helped? I know of 2 times where they say they did not work. What is wrong with Eastside now? I kept saying they should of planed on expansion when they built it. But was told it would not be needed. But they built it to small on a lot that was to small to start with. Then let a big subdivision move in and take the land that could have been used for expansion. They want you to think they are planning for the future, but they do not do a good job of it. Then they say we will build a new school, and close the old one, but never do close the old one. Look at the school in Oxford. It is still in business. Look at Sharp. That could be torn down and a new large multi floor school built in its place that would last for decades. Look at what they have done at Mansfield and East Newton. Just add on and move forward. These old schools cost to keep lights on. Water on. Heating and cooling. That is why it keeps costing us money. Build a new school and tear down the old one. Don’t about face on what you say. That is why WE as the public will not trust you or give you more money.

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RetiredGuy 1 year, 5 months ago

There is no money in this for the Newton County Library. The Library is as much a part of the education system as a school. The schools certainly send their students to it.

Have you seen the Library lately? I was there today. There are a great deal of empty spaces where there used to be magazines. Some spaces have a magazine in place but look at the publishing month. I looked at PC World. It was the November 2012 issue!

The Library should be a priority for funding. The prior group of County Commissioners as well as the current bunch has gutted funds for the Library. The library needs money for a full compliment of magazines, books and staff for it's several locations.

Until the Library gets a full share of money there should not be passage of this SPLOST.

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dennistay53 1 year, 5 months ago

I believe election laws were broken with them being there and comments they made. I am filling a complaint with the secretary of state for an investigation.

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ThePublicGood 1 year, 5 months ago

I agree but fighting them won't be easy. They are not transparent and will say they broke no law. Show up at the board meeting Tuesday night @ 7 pm and sign up to speak ur 5 minutes.

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Crazyhooker99 1 year, 5 months ago

Remember y'all what the queen said: a million dollars is not a lot of money.

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ThePublicGood 1 year, 5 months ago

Haha. I forgot that but yes she said it. Told me a lot.

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HonestAbe 1 year, 5 months ago

Mr Stone do your research. The children murdered in Newtown were in a elementary school. We need security in our elementary schools to. Cameras won't stop bullets.

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mrsfingerprints 1 year, 5 months ago

I can tell you this. Their closed meetings better not stray from the legal 3 topics or I will find out and will file an AG complaint each time. They should not discuss news articles or web comments or columns in closed meetings. They also should not meet in quorums on public matters like Splost.

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PaperChase 1 year, 5 months ago

Language from 2007 SPLOST:

2007 SPLOST & Bond Referendum On September 18, 2007, Newton County residents passed the school system’s $110 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and general obligation bond referenda for schools.

By approving the SPLOST Referendum Newton County residents approved the continuation of the existing one-penny sales tax that was set to expire on December 31, 2009. These revenues will be used primarily to construct three new elementary schools, a new middle school, an addition to Alcovy High School; to make improvements at existing schools and Sharp Stadium; to improve technology; to purchase buses and to reduce the district’s general obligation principal indebtedness. This sales tax is limited to 60 months of collections or until a set amount of revenue has been received, whichever comes first.

The passage of the General Obligation Bonds referenda will provide the school system revenues to be used primarily to construct a new high school, complete the new middle school, and make additions/improvements to existing schools. This General Obligation Bond indebtedness is scheduled to be paid by a continuation of the current one mill for debt service after it is scheduled to expire in 2016.

The growth in our county is well documented. It was reported that from 2000-2006 Newton County was the 4th fastest growing county in Georgia and the 11th fastest growing county in the nation. We have continually grown by more than 1,000 students each year. At this rate of growth, more than 25,000 students are projected to be enrolled in our schools by 2013, the anticipated completion date of the proposed construction and improvements.

The proceeds from the SPLOST and GO Bond Referenda will be used for the following projects:

■Three new elementary schools. (where are these 3?) ■One new middle school. (where?) ■One new high school. ■An addition to Alcovy High School. (Was dark with no electricity for 7 months). ■Band/ROTC addition to Eastside High School. (where is this?) Where did the money go? ■Renovations at existing schools, including Newton High School. (Describe these?) ■Improvements to Sharp Stadium and possible construction of a second stadium. (Seriously?????????????????) A 2nd stadium? I wish I could put together Wish Lists like this.) ■Improved technology throughout the school system. ■Payment for existing school buses which were acquired through bus purchase financing as well as future bus acquisitions. ■Payment towards existing bond indebtedness in order to maintain the current low rate of one mill for debt service. (Then why do you need 30million now?)

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MamaTurd 1 year, 5 months ago

Newton Citizens pay attention to the anit-SPLOST rally this weekend in Cobb County - interesting reading here : http://eastcobb.patch.com/articles/cobb-ed-splost-foes-to-hold-rally

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dennistay53 1 year, 5 months ago

Did they tell us the truth? To maintain bond at 1 mill. We passed it and the bond debt already up to 1.9 halfway in. Can they be trusted to tell the truth.

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eyewitness 1 year, 5 months ago

the board can by law discuss 3 topics in closed session: personnel and pending litigation and land purchase and sale. NoT columns or letters or news articles on Splost or any other topic. I am watching.

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