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Letter to the Editor: 'Why I'm Voting No on E-SPLOST'

Roswell resident Jake Lilley is not for the E-SPLOST, are you? Tell him why you agree or disagree in the comments.

"The choice of E-SPLOST v. property tax as a source of school funding is rather like being given the choice between getting robbed at gun-point, or having your house broken into during the middle of the night. It’s really not much of a choice and the outcome is the same. 

Once passed, E-SPLOST is law and provides the school board with an uncontested source of tax payer funding. So why is a property tax the lesser of two evils? An increase to property tax for the purpose of funding schools must be voted on by an elected school board. Elected representatives are held accountable to the voters. As such, they can be tossed out if they do not act in accordance with the will of the people.

Furthermore, when presented the option, I cannot, by my own hand vote to affirm, legitimize and fund a public education system that is failing. 

As you can see, Georgians are spending money on education; plenty of it.  But the return on investment is lousy.  If I were an investor, I would take my money elsewhere.  Sure, we can choose to move another state, one that provides a greater educational ROI, and some people do.  But this is my state, my money, my children and my problem. And one thing is clear to me, a lack of spending is not the problem and continued or increased spending will not solve the problem."

Sincerely,

Jake Lilley

Roswell

Jennifer Kardian November 07, 2011 at 03:57 PM
Independent analysis has shown that Fulton County has been a good steward of SPLOST money since 1997. This is a county issue, not a state issue. And, while Georgia does lag in national rankings, Fulton County does not (at least not to the same degree). I am in support of eSPLOST because it would continue to fund technological advancements and capital improvements in our schools. I appreciate that EVERYONE who spends money in Fulton Co. contributes to this "penny tax" fund. (Everyone who goes to a Braves game or the GA Aquarium or the Fox...) I, for one, do NOT want my property taxes to go up by as much as 20% if eSPLOST is not passed by voters. The money must come from somewhere. The School Board wouldn't have a choice but to increase property taxes and it would be naive to think that voters would all of a sudden hold them accountable because of an inevitable increase. I think a continuation of eSPLOST would help improve and maintain our schools to the standards we've come to expect, thereby helping to maintain home values in the county and keeping Fulton County as a desirable place to live. It is important to note that eSPLOST does not enable an increase in spending by the school system but allows for the re-payment of debt and the continuation of capital improvements to schools countywide that have already been planned and budgeted for. eSPLOST is a continuation of an existing tax that has been good for our schools, NOT a new tax. VOTE "YES"!
Christine Foster November 07, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Thanks for commenting Jennifer. There are absolutely two sides to this issue and it's good to hear from the "vote yes" side as well.
Just Nasty and Mean November 07, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Jennifer, you are missing the MOST IMPORTANT point! The Bd. of Ed is asking us to spend almost a billion dollars...and NOT ONCE....No place....in their taxpayer paid brochure slicks or fancy videos have they committed to us how this will influence their primary objective: Educating our kids. What is our Return on Investment in improved education or test scores for spending nearly a billion dollars, Jennifer? You have swallowed the assumption we MUST spend $912m one way or another. Jennifer--you are wrong. Tell me how spending millions on upgrading school buses to green energy improves education for the kids? Tell me how upgrading their service facilities improves education. Is there any chance--ANY CHANCE, Jennifer, this is intended to keep a money train rolling for the school bureaucrats and developers? Jennifer, via the last 3 SPLOSTS we have spent BILLION$$$ in capital improvement. Please point to me where this yielded a dramatic improvements in test scores! You seem to be tying MONEY to quality of education--and there IS NO PROOF of that. Washington DC spends double what we spend here. Does it yield a better student? Resoundingly NO! The SPLOSTs were intended to be short term sources for capital project funding. They were NEVER intended to be a rolling stream of ready cash to meet every wish-list need from the Board of Education. Enough taxes, Jennifer. ENOUGH!
Jennifer Kardian November 07, 2011 at 06:31 PM
Funny, it seems that you are the one trying to tie money to the quality of education by talking about "return on investment". I never suggested that SPLOST dollars would directly improve test scores, but I do believe that this round of SPLOST will help create optimal learning environments through needed renovations and replacements. I believe that technology improvements will help our students learn and be competitive nationally. In terms of capital improvements, which is the bulk of the proposed budget - I do think students learn better in safe and healthy environments, void of leaking roofs and malfunctioning heating and air systems. Like your personal vehicle, the buses that transport our kids to school require maintenance and occasional replacement. Who should pay for these things? The county is responsible for the upkeep of hundreds of "houses" of learning. Not every dollar spent under the umbrella of "education" is going to tie to learning outcomes and test scores. There is a cost to maintain and improve the infrastructure of the school system and create optimal learning environments for our children. I view SPLOST as a viable way to do that and one that makes more sense to me than raising property taxes, impacting only those people who own homes. http://www.fultonschools.org/SPLOST4/Default.aspx
Jake Lilley November 07, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Jennifer, Why spend money if it is not tied to results? If your goal is not to produce an educated child, then what is your goal? It’s time to put an end to government programs that spend billions of tax-payer dollars creating environments that look good, feel good, but produce failure.
Just Nasty and Mean November 07, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Oh, please....Leaky roofs and malfunctioning A/C systems? You HAVE to be kidding! Have you seen the palace called Milton High School? Johns Creek HS? Northview HS? Alpharetta HS? and now Bethany Bend HS? We've already spent BILLIONS, Ms. Kardian. How much more do you need?? My 60 year old high school had oiled wooden floors and hadn't been painted in decades, and my class managed to produce several physicians, scientists, business leaders, and lawyers. The school building had NOTHING to do with the learning we received. Time to focus scarce resources of the taxpayers-in a stressful economy--on what is important. Fulco Schools receives BILLIONS in property tax dollars to provide maintenance services you discuss and they do not need another billion dollars!! If the BofE cannot provide the services with what they get now--then let's find someone else who will. Put down your kool-aid, Ms.Kardian. Time to end this never-ending spending spree called SPLOST and focus the people's scarce resources on teaching our kids.
Jennifer Kardian November 07, 2011 at 07:29 PM
I'd prefer that my child learns in a building with heat in the winter and air conditioning in the spring; where the roof doesn't leak; where there is sufficient lighting; where there is a system of safety and security in place; where there are no gas leaks; no asbestos... The environment in which students learn does make a difference. See: http://www.21csf.org/csf-home/publications/ImpactSchoolFacilitiesCivilRightsAug2011.pdf OR http://honeywellnow.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/hbs-ew-survey-results-final-11-18-10.pdf What is the alternative to not maintaining the physical structures of our schools? Should we force our children to attend dilapidated, unsafe schools until they get their test scores up and prove they're worthy of a quality learning environment? Of course not. The money is going to be spent to maintain the buildings, whether you or I approve of it or not. The question is, "Which tax will pay for it?" - an increased property tax on homeowners or the continuation of a penny tax for all?
Carol Butts November 07, 2011 at 07:43 PM
Propery Tax increase---NO! 1cent tax continuation -- YES!!!
Just Nasty and Mean November 07, 2011 at 10:10 PM
No Heat, No A/C, leaky roofs, poor lights, gas leaks, asbestos, dilapidated unsafe schools! You KNOW this isn't the case! We just finished paying Billions for 3 consecutive SPLOSTS on dozens of new schools. If what you say is true, WHERE DID OUR MONEY GO on the last SPLOST???? ....And you want to give them more??? You are delusional if you think what you said is true. Check out the schools I mentioned and take a reality check at your nearest psychiatrist.
Christine Foster November 07, 2011 at 11:22 PM
Thanks for your comment Just Nasty. We definitely appreciate your point of view, but please try to keep it cordial on the site. Thanks!
Dianne November 08, 2011 at 12:22 AM
Part of the ESPLOST is to repair / replace roofs on schools that are five years old. My brother, who owns a commercial roofing company that was also owned by our father going back to the mid-1950s, and has roofed many GA schools over the years, laughed when I pointed this out to him. He said the tax payers are getting ripped off. Either the bids for these jobs are going to minority contractors or friends of friends. A good commercial school roof should last at least 15 yiears. No thank you to the ESPLOST..
Dianne November 08, 2011 at 12:23 AM
You are obviously uninformed about this.
LD November 08, 2011 at 01:34 AM
Mr. Lilley, Some comments on your points: 1. Using SAT scores is not an apples to apples comparison between states. Many states public universities do not use SAT scores, but ACT scores. Thus, the pool of students taking the SAT is much smaller and those who are more likely to go out of state for college. In GA, almost every high school student takes the SAT - college bound or not. A better comparison is the NEAP, which shows Georgia making great gains. 2. You ask "Why spend money if it is not tied to results?" I would argue, much as Jennifer has, that the money *IS* tied to results. If our students do not have adequate facilities with appropriate materials to allow them take full advantage of the curriculum then scores will suffer. Unlike many other counties, Fulton is still growing, in part because of our schools. How many children would you like shoved into existing schools? How many trailers do you want on your school's property? And to Nasty's list of schools, many of those are brand new. But, there are many other schools that are now 10 years old, and by the end of SPLOST IV will be over 15 years old. Just as in homes, there are things that need repaired & replaced. 3. I am in support of SPLOST, not only because it is a pay-as-you-go system, but also because there is a specific checklist of where the money may be spent. Why vote against is and give the school Board carte blanche for the remainder of their term?
Jake Lilley November 08, 2011 at 02:02 AM
Spending is not the solution, accountability is. It’s really quite simple. If you believe in the status quo (more/continued spending with little accountability), then you should vote “Yes” on eSPLOST. If you believe it’s time for a change (less spending and more accountability), then you should to vote “No” on eSPLOST. One is a solution, the other is not. It’s up to you to decide.
Jennifer Kardian November 08, 2011 at 02:08 AM
What people need to understand is that these expenditures will be made by the county to maintain the schools. There is no vote on whether these items will be replaced. They've actually already published where the SPLOST funds will go, which holds them accountable for the money. The vote is really if you want only homeowners to foot the bill or if you'd like everyone who spends money in Fulton Co. to help shoulder it. If eSPLOST doesn't pass, what will you do/say this time next year when the school board is forced to increase millage rates to repay their debt and cover capital expenditures?
Jennifer Kardian November 08, 2011 at 02:22 AM
The schools you name are a significant minority in Fulton County. Look no farther than Roswell HS to see a building in need of capital improvements. The money spent in the last rounds of SPLOST is published and available to all, if you honestly have questions as to where it was spent. I do want to give the school board the money they need to maintain the schools - yes. But, I'd prefer that all people spending money in Fulton Co. share the burden. It isn't carte blanche. They have already identified where the funds will go specifically. As with anything, if you don't maintain it, it will weaken and fall apart. If that is delusional thinking, then so be it.
Dianne November 08, 2011 at 04:28 AM
Then we will hold the FulCo BoE accountable for how our monies are spent. If not spent responsibly and for best use, then perhaps its time to find people to sit on the BoE who will be a little more responsible and careful with our monies. Education is not about bricks and mortar, but rather about hiring quality teachers to educate our children.
Jake Lilley November 08, 2011 at 05:06 AM
Insanity = doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. E-SPLOST = Insanity
Dianne November 08, 2011 at 01:41 PM
E-SPLOST is just another government cash cow, just like the GA 400 Toll Booth. If FulCo can't live within the School Tax portion of our property taxes, then perhaps, they need to work on tightening their belts.
Jeff November 08, 2011 at 02:26 PM
In my opinion, there is a fundamental difference on the two perspectives. Philisophically, I would agree that we should say no to the tax and hold our elected school board officials accountable to produce improved results and become more efficient. But unfortunately there is a more practical reality that if we vote no for the tax, we WILL see a millage rate increase for years to come and end up paying a higher "dollar amount," compared to what we would pay in the 1% sales tax scenario. I say this assuming that contributions from the 1% tax will be burdened by non-property owners such as tourists. As a small business owner struggling in this economy, is it worth another $1,000 to me every year in prop taxes, or would I rather pay another $.75 every time I fill up my car with gas. I wish I knew how to quantify the difference in the two scenarios. Ok, so we vote them out and vote in new people.. We still have years of baggage that will not change the trajectory of spending to any appreciable degree, and the new Board will likely produce the same results. I think our board members are probably doing about all they can do, bound by the restrictions and constraints imposed upon them by the inherent lethargic & incompetent thing we call government. Damned if you do, damned if you dont.
tired of govt waste November 09, 2011 at 07:07 PM
So why don't we see an analysis on our property taxes going down as our property values have gone down? I definitely believe it is the fiscal duty of the BoE to tighten its belt (I am sure there are many areas they can) but I disagree with the theory that the sales tax will fix the problem. Its another way for the government to not be accountable to the citizens. I really do not believe the schools are unsafe for learning after 5 years. If so, we need better cotractors building the schools
Jake Lilley November 10, 2011 at 03:37 AM
I believe in the free market, private enterprise and the sound stewardship of the resources that God has entrusted to me. Most importantly, I believe in the freedom of choice; the ability to choose who educates my children, where they are educated, how they are educated and how that education is funded. When I try to reconcile my philosophy of Liberty against the public education system, I can’t get the two to match. The very existence of a public education system is largely unchallenged. We simply accept it because it has always been. In reality, it is the single most important tool in the ever-growing belt of State-mandated indoctrination. It robs me of my choice, stifles competition, squanders God’s resources and produces a product, the quality of which could not survive in a free market.
Jake Lilley November 10, 2011 at 03:38 AM
At the age of 6, we are required to deposit our children into a state education system, or a sate approved equivalent. We may withdraw them at the age of 16. During this time, and for 8 hours each day, our children will be in the care and nurturing of the State. Meanwhile, the public is pacified by the idea that we have representation and influence through a school board. Give the people a “committee” and they are content that they have a proper stake in a democratic process. But such committees are bound by federal, state and local laws. Laws that rob us of our choice, dictate the curriculum that will be taught, set the standards that must be met and direct our tax dollars to another. Why should I permit my pocket to be picked to fund a school that was chosen by my address, so my child can be taught a curriculum that I did not select by teachers who I did not hire and cannot fire?
Jake Lilley November 10, 2011 at 03:38 AM
I believe that we are focused on the wrong issue. Most will ask the question, “How can we best fund the public education system?” Instead, I believe the question should be, “Does the public education system provide the best means by which to educate our children?” The question is not, “How should we fund the public education system,” but “Should we fund a public education system?” Take a look around you; it’s time to start questioning the norm.
No Name November 10, 2011 at 12:30 PM
Amen.

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