Early voting already is underway, and on Tuesday, November 8th, voters in DeKalb County will head to the polls to vote on an important issue—funding for our schools. This vote is an opportunity for voters to cast their ballots on the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST IV), the one-cent sales tax for school improvements that was approved by voters in 2007 and expires in 2012. The sales tax extension for SPLOST IV is limited to sixty months. If the continuation of the tax is approved, school improvements will be funded by all those who buy goods in DeKalb County, regardless of where they live.
What is the purpose of SPLOST IV? The purpose of SPLOST IV is to:
- cover the period 2012-2017
- address a portion of the $2.2 billion that is needed
- focus on:
- elementary school new construction
- refreshing existing technology equipment and infrastructure
- making improvements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- upgrading the bus and service vehicle fleet
- investing in security cameras, closed circuit televisions, and other improvements to the security systems
- allocating funds for the Local School Priority Request (LSPR) program, which allows each school to make their own capital improvement requests
- capital renewal—a vital program that will address the replacement of critical systems on an annual rotation at over 300 projects district wide
- installing synthetic turf and replace lighting at stadiums
How will it benefit our district? With respect to our House District, both Pleasantdale Elementary School and Henderson Middle School would benefit, as would Chamblee Charter High School, which some of our residents attend.
For complete information on the SPLOST, click here.
Why should I approve this if I am dissatisfied with the management of the school district? Some of you have told me that you are undecided as to whether to support the SPLOST because of concerns about irresponsible fiscal and educational management of the school district over a period of several years. I understand these concerns, and am thankful that we appear to be heading in a better direction now, although more work needs to be done to ensure transparency and accountability. While I understand and agree with the concerns, I also believe that it is important to pass the SPLOST to improve DeKalb's schools. Moreover, if the SPLOST is not passed, property taxes would likely be raised to fund our schools.
Dr. Atkinson, the new Superintendent, has taken measures to address prior mismanagement. She has announced the establishment of a Citizens SPLOST Oversight Committee, which is a 12-member body of community representatives who will provide oversight of SPLOST-funded construction projects and report to DeKalb County residents on how SPLOST funds are being spent. I believe this is an important effort to make sure tax dollars are well spent for the benefit our DeKalb's students. In addition, an EthicsLine website and phone line has been established to allow employees, parents, citizens and others to alert School District officials and the internal auditor of irregularities in finances or operations. Citizens can access EthicsLine at www.DeKalb.k12.ga.us/audit-and-compliance or by calling 888-475-0482
When is the vote? Voting will take place on November 8th from 7 AM to 7 PM at your regular polling place. Early voting is now through Friday, November 4, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. weekdays at the DeKalb County Voter Registration & Elections Office, 4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300, Decatur, GA 30032, near the junction of Memorial and I-285.
What is the impact of the SPLOST on the size of the school board? Under Section 20-2-52.1 of Senate Bill 79, the reduction of school board to seven members applies to those counties with a homestead option sales and use tax and a county sales and use tax for educational purposes. Some supporters of the SPLOST contend that passing it will further reform efforts because of this provision applying the law to counties with a SPLOST in effect. While this is true, it is also possible that if the SPLOST were defeated, the General Assembly could pass another measure limiting the size of the school board regardless of the existence of the SPLOST. In short, I recommend that you do not base your vote on whether the school board will be reduced but rather base your vote on whether you think that enacting the SPLOST is the right thing for DeKalb County and its students.
What is your position? I support SPLOST IV and will vote for it. I believe our schools need this funding, and I am encouraged by the reforms that have been enacted to address past issues.