Tuesday, July 22, 2008

School Board SPLOST and Aquatic Facility

Last night the School Board met to discuss the possibility of asking voters to agree to a once-cent tax hike to pay for what appears to be much-needed improvements and items for our students.

I listened as various department heads and staff explained each of the items listed on the proposal.

I understand the need. The state has some pretty stiff requirements on where the money they send to the county is spent. Unfortunately, they don’t fund quite a number of things that make our schools shine and the School Board has to figure out a way to get that money. According to the handout at the meeting, in the last several yeas the state has reduced funding by approximately $21 million. That’s a lot of money.

To add to their dollar woes, property values (and thus tax collections) are down and gas and food prices are continuing to increase.

I see the need for a SPLOST if we’re going to keep our schools the best in the state. I’m not entirely sold yet as I’m never in favor of raising taxes.

However, when I saw that included in this list of dire need items was an aquatic facility I did a double take.

The long laundry list of items included putting new roofs on schools that hadn’t seen new roof tile in over 20 years. Computers and updating software that in some cases was 8 or more years old. Buying buses that should have been bought last year but funds weren’t available. Security cameras for the older schools to protect our kids.

And an aquatic center?

Sorry, lost my vote if that stays on the list. They’re estimating up to ten million dollars to build an aquatic center. They want to partner with the County Recreation Department or possibly the YMCA.

In these times where we’re all wondering if we’re going to be able to afford to pay for our next tank of gas we’re looking at building a multi-million dollar swim center? I’d have a hard time swallowing that one in the best of times.

Per Dr. DeCotis, Peachtree City is having some funding issues and may not be able to put the bubble on the Kedron pool. The annual cost for putting up the bubble (so the pool can be used in the winter I assume) is roughly $300,000. Peachtree City currently charges a fee per use of the pool. They are considering getting the School Board, and others who may use the pool, to help fund putting up the bubble. Ten million dollars can pay for a lot of pool use in Peachtree City for years to come and help the city, too.

Our swim team students also travel to Clayton County to use their aquatic center. The cost is time, bus use and gasoline plus the fees charged by the county.

I understand that SPLOST money probably can’t be used to pay for gas to travel to Clayton County or for swimming fees in Peachtree City. However, last night they talked numerous times about swapping money around. If the SPLOST paid for this item then they could reduce the M&O by this much. They can fund something else that’s needed using the SPLOST and find the money to pay for the swim team to practice at Kedron.

They WANT an aquatic center. The YMCA WANTS an aquatic center. Some of the County Commissioners WANT an aquatic center.

It’s not a need, it’s a want.

Having the aquatic center on the list of what sounded like dire “needs” for the school system diminished the entire list. The discussion’s last night made it sounds like they’re probably going to pull it off the list. I hope so.


Anonymous said...

Things like an aquatic center are exactly the kinds of things that Fayette needs to maintain a competitive advantage over Coweta County.

You're probably right about it not needing to be included on a school board SPLOST initiative, mostly because we need the SPLOST to pass and people like you will vote against it if it includes a much needed aquatic center.

The county should pay for it, not a school SPLOST. Preferably money can be found through some type of public/private funding venture.

Anonymous said...

There is no need for a SPLOST. If the superintendient and Board had been financially diligent and responsible with the $200 million per year they already have, they wouldn't need this blank check. By passing a SPLOST, we will encourage further irresponsible behavior like building schools where we don't need them, and even bigger land deal blunders.