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Unpacking ESPLOST 6: Are taxpayers getting their money's worth?


Unpacking ESPLOST 6: Are taxpayers getting their money's worth?

To our Taxpayers. There is as usually considerable confusion about ESPLOST 6 and its real purpose. The "just a penny" campaign somewhat understates the cost of this tax. Think about the pennies you put in a jar after each trip to the store. They add up quickly, don't they? Even the 7% on some food products include those pennies, then add all the billed pennies like phone and power and gas. Hardly any business collects just a penny at a sale.

But is this tax generated by the Board of Education focused on academics and education? Superintendent Jennifer Carter, in the Sun article p 8 Thursday 3/2, stressed that finding parking for newly minted 16-year-old drivers was her first priority. To do so, it would be necessary to tear down the maintenance building and build a new edifice on the newly acquired land on Bowman Highway. Don't you wonder how many new drivers there are now and how many more she anticipates? Might there be some land on the campus that could be graveled and used? Maybe parking should be a privilege gained by grade point. Those driving without that privilege could park at the Ag center and be bused to school like Clemson and UGA do.

Later in the same article, she focuses on the road near the field house and suggests that the road that must have served for 50 years is too narrow, unsafe, and dark. With the college-caliber gymnasium, upgraded track, and football field, is there a pressing need for a new field house? Have there been significant numbers of accidents on the road? But the solution is to build a new field house, not a new road.

The surprising initiation to add a daycare facility in place of the old admin building certainly shocked many members of the HCPOA audience at their February meeting when assoc. Supirintendant Mewborn presented it. He cited teacher retention as a rationale for offering this benefit to teachers. How many are leaving? But which teachers would benefit? For the past few years, hiring seemed to be focused on finding the best, most experienced teachers and paying well. Generally, these teachers would be less likely to have toddlers with such needs. The question of cost was not addressed. Such a facility would undoubtedly require new personnel, perhaps new security, and maintenance. Those costs all go into the annual budget. The idea that this might strengthen the teaching pathway at CCA was raised; perhaps the viability of that pathway reflects a lack of interest in teaching as a profession.

Certainly, ESPLOST is a tax-based generating capital construction project, but should not the tie to academics be the first priority rather than parking? The recent study of the Georgia Milestone Assessment Test Ranking by

SchoolDigger for 2021/2022 suggests that Hart County is still mired in the middle, with only South Hart breaking out close to the 70th percentile.

Lastly, what is the rush for moving right into ESPLOST 6 well before # 5 is finished? One administrator in several BOE meetings last year noted that it would not be prudent to let taxpayers get used to not paying the tax even for a short period. By the way, because the Bd of Education scheduled the vote in March rather than waiting for the regular November election, the school system will pay the total cost for the election.

There is also the question of ESPLOST 5 funds. How much is available? The multi-purpose athletic facility near the track was just bid for $1.1 million for a 3000 sq ft building, seemingly replicating some functions already in place by the track. Other funds are available for the rifle range.

Another recent question has been what would happen if ESPLOST6 is delayed until Jan 2025, when #5 would reach its calendar end. The regular operations of the school system would continue to utilize its $30-40 million budget. Remember, they just got a $100,000 state grant, and the increasing tax digest brought in an unbudgeted $750,000 because the millage was not reduced accordingly. And did you wonder where that money for the Bowman land came from last fall? and why it took six months to find out the sales price was $509,000? The members of the Bd of Education would not be hiding anything, would they?

Back to the question, the tax money would stay in taxpayers' pockets for about 15 months. The result would be $6 to $7 million that probably would be spent in the same retail and business establishments that were collecting the tax in the first place. Might that not be a real boon to the local economy? Remember, most of the construction money will go to bidders out of Hart County.

What will happen to construction commitments made if the ESPLOST does not deliver as promised is missing from much of this discussion. There are certainly hints of a recession on the horizon. Board of education members has not shown themselves to be especially creative as managers able to do anything except raise taxes.

There are many facets to this new tax; after all, ESPLOST 6 will generate $12,000,000 more than Esp 5. No wonder the Board of Education members don't talk about it publicly.

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