County officials speak out about SPLOST language

COVINGTON -- Two county officials are speaking out about part of the proposed education SPLOST.

John Douglas, District 1 representative for the Newton County Board of Commissioners, and Jeff Meadors, District 1 representative for the Newton County Board of Education, issued a joint letter on Thursday regarding the language of the upcoming educational SPLOST referendum, for which early voting is now under way.

"We recommend the voters carefully consider the future of Eastside High School when voting on this referendum," the letter reads. "We believe that revised language may better clarify for the voters the more likely prospect of a new building for the current Theme School at Ficquett, rather than jeopardizing the high school that has served our part of Newton County so well."

The referendum calls for more than $3.25 million to be used to construct a replacement high school for Eastside High School. Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews has said that a new high school would be warranted only by enrollment in order to move the parent-involvement theme school from the Ficquett Elementary School building into the current Eastside building. The state would also have to provide funding in order for a new building to be constructed.

"We have a great high school on this side of the county, and we want to keep it that way," said Douglas, whose daughter graduated from Eastside in 2009. "I don't see a need for (a new building). It's not at capacity. It's something that's not broken."

He said he would rather see the money be used for renovations to Ficquett if the school system wants to improve the Theme School. Ficquett was phased out of state funding a few years ago, so the state no longer pays for renovations.

"I think the language is such that it's risky for Eastside High School," Douglas said.

He said he plans to vote no in the SPLOST election. He wouldn't say if he was for or against other parts of the SPLOST referendum, which includes property tax relief, school security, school technology and maintenance and school buses.

He said that if the referendum does not pass, then he would recommend that the school board change the language and propose it again in November 2014, which is the next time that the board could legally propose it in time for it to go into effect before the current SPLOST runs out in December 2014.

Meadors said he is not opposed to SPLOST. He voted, along with the rest of the school board, to put the call for the SPLOST referendum out to voters in December.

"My fall vote was in support of getting this out to voters, but since that time, our enrollment has dropped," Meadors said. "Much like my support of moving the charter amendment to the voters, I believe the voters should make these decisions, but I do have concerns about the current SPLOST language."

He said recently he's received many complaints about the wording and especially about the part concerning Eastside High.

"I do owe district constituents explanations about the language when and where I can provide them. Thus, John and I crafted a joint letter, as he had concerns also," Meadors said. "I'm in no way trying to influence anyone's vote. ... We'll just have to see what happens."

They said they are not speaking for either the Board of Education or the Board of Commissioners, but as district representatives.

Editor's note: Please see today's Perspective Page on 7A for the full text of the letter.


Bemused 2 years, 7 months ago

I believe the last time John Douglas told us that something wasn't broken and didn't need to be fixed, he had to re-vote to fix his mistake. Also, why the fixation on Eastside High School? It's at the very bottom of the priority list for this SPLOST. I guess he just doesn't want anyone touching the supposed "white" high school.


Lucy30016 2 years, 6 months ago

If you think that Eastside is all white you have lost your mind. It is now a Title One school. Why is it so successful and why are these men standing up for the fuzzy language that includes it? Because the leadership at that school works like dogs to keep student achievement at the top. Stop race baiting and pay attention to the SPLOST language it does say "urgent need" following a "canvas" - who the hell canvassed that and dreamed that up?


mansfield 2 years, 6 months ago

Daring someone to knock that race chip off your shoulder?


mrsfingerprints 2 years, 6 months ago

First of all I don't care all that much what you think because you blow out incorrect facts. Second, I thank the Newton Citizen for creating a forum where we can express ourselves about our schools. I want our schools to do well but trying to pass some crazy SPLOST with language so vague as it is just adds to the mistrust I have in the system and the superintendent. But to your point you can go to the DOE website and the data is not 2012 or even 2013 but the most recent data on Eastside High shows 36% black students and 58% white students and 41% free / reduced lunch students and more than 12% in remedial education and more than 14% in special education - hardly an all-white elite school would you not agree? That is the most recent data and it is 3 years old so I imagine the diversity is even greater now. THe DOE site says it is not a title one school - that shows you how outdated our own DOE site is but EHS is a targeted assistance Title One school due to the high percentages of free and reduced lunch. I care about NCSS and I thank these to men for helping us to understand that stupid SPLOST. And thank them rather than blame them for speaking out. If it fails you can blame the past several years of mistrust and you can take the next year to go back to the draft table and begin again and take a hint - remove the vague language no one has any pennies to give you for projects we dont understand.


mansfield 2 years, 7 months ago

Well said by both men. We don't have to collect money just to spend it on un needed items. Leave Eastside alone and concentrate on getting scores up and discipline problems down.


HonestAbe 2 years, 7 months ago

Great job Gentlemen. Lets send this back to the drawing board


dennistay53 2 years, 7 months ago

Thank you gentlemen for caring about the citizens in your districts


henrystamm 2 years, 6 months ago

Here they go again more wastfull spending. We get what we vote for, Garbage. 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 whom 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. I thought by getting rid of the tax and spend democrats we would have gotten a more conservative and frugal State government. I guess the democrats have invaded the Republican Party and now there is no difference anymore. Just leave it up to democrats to screw up the country state and local government and our way of life. Shame on all that voted for this garbage.


RV30015 2 years, 6 months ago

@Henry - sounds to us like they are saying hey let's relook at this not trying to spend rather trying to save. Did you not see that? If enrollment drops the county needs fewer seats and they have the career academy to take some kids. WHen students leave their FTE dollars go with them. I agree with Meadors that SPLOST makes sense just not the way it is written in this referendum. They sound like - to me - they are watching out for us.


MamaTurd 2 years, 6 months ago

Proud of elected people who speak out and are transparent. Agree or not it is nice to hear them care about my district.


TheUpside 2 years, 6 months ago

Thank you men for standing up. I was so confused by the language when I voted early so voted no on it. It was too vague.


Shart15 2 years, 6 months ago

FINALLY someone stands up for Eastside. So tired of the bashing we get here. And yes a million dollars is a lot of money!


ThePublicGood 2 years, 6 months ago

this right here is an example of two public elected officials taking time to meet with and listen to groups in the district who are quite truly raging mad about the way this SPLOST has been done and the language and the way they tried to bury it in the last section about the high school and they took the time to listen and they know doing this won't make them so popular with the groups they work with but you know what i voted for both of them and i did not vote for them to always be popular or play well with others - i voted for them to represent me and my concerns. Thank you both.


dennistay53 2 years, 6 months ago

Another reason to vote no on SPLOST. The state of ga keeps 1% of all money collected for handling fees. So this 1% comes out of taxpayers pockets and does not go to the school system.


RetiredGuy 2 years, 6 months ago

No more SPLOST for anything, especially education.

Education revenue should come out of Real Estate taxes which we can deduct on our State and Federal tax returns.

Yes, we can deduct sales taxes if we choose that over Income taxes. However, in most all cases our Income taxes will always be much greater than what the government allows for sales taxes.

SPLOST and sales taxes are of no benefit at tax time.

And while I'm at it, the Commissioners should increase taxes specifically for the Library. We deserve much more in our Library than the commissioners are providing now.


eyewitness 2 years, 6 months ago

I am very proud of these guys for speaking out. Not against the idea of a splost just not voting for this one. Write it honestly and leave out the lies about urgent needs.


dennistay53 2 years, 6 months ago

I for sure will always remember the two elected officials who cared enough to stick their necks out to try and get this right for us


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