Learnard joins Dienhart in supporting ESPLOST vote

Dienhart: $40M shortfall too much for school system to absorb

Another member of the Peachtree City Council has stuck her neck out in favor of extending the proposed educational sales tax (ESPLOST) for another five years for the Fayette County School System.

At the end of Thursday’s council meeting, Kim Learnard said she would vote for the ESPLOST, in large part because the provision to pay down school system debt has lowered property taxes across the board over the past several years.

Councilman George Dienhart, who has already voiced his support for ESPLOST, noted that he “tends” to dislike voting for any tax, but the cost savings from the bond millage rate rollback helps.

More importantly, Dienhart said, the school system is facing some $20 million in cuts for the upcoming school year, and if the ESPLOST fails, the shortfall will double to about $40 million.

“Please give us some consideration and think about the fact that you get to invest in some of the best schools in Georgia right now,” Dienhart said. “Let’s keep them that way.”

Dienhart noted that one new school board member has already been elected and another new member may win election this November as well.

The Fayette County School System this week released a list of how it will spend the projected $95 million in revenue from the ESPLOST as follows:

• 39 percent for curriculum, instruction and technology.

• 37 percent for maintenance, renovations and modifications — but NOT artificial turf for stadiums.

• Slightly under 14 percent for things like school buses, classroom and administrative furniture, and surveillance cameras.

• Slightly under 11 percent to pay down bond debt.

The Fayette County Board of Education recently approved the ballot measure that carries a maximum ceiling of $107 million over a 5-year collection period.

Collections for the current ESPLOST will end next year. So far the ESPLOST funds have been used to add technology improvements to schools, purchase textbooks and school buses, and also to pay down the school’s bonded debt, which has resulted in a lowering of the school debt service millage rate over the past several years.

The lowering of the debt service millage rate has reduced the property taxes for a $250,000 home by $434, according to school officials.

Among the technology improvements to schools has been the adoption of a computerized grading system that automatically notifies parents via email when their child has a failing grade in a class or has a zero for an assignment. Also several local schools have been outfitted with restricted Internet access to enhance learning through the “bring your own technology” program, and schools have also been able to adopt remote control devices called “student responders” which allow students to become more active in learning by answering multiple choice questions posed to the entire class.

The school system has also used the E-SPLOST to purchase 36 new school buses, add security video cameras to other buses, officials have said.

E-SPLOST proceeds also have been used to the tune of $12.2 million to pay down bond-financed projects and in turn reduce the millage rate for that indebtedness, officials have said.

Larry Sussberg
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Dienhart & Learnard

Thank you for taking a stance on an issue that you didn't have to.

That's what makes the difference between a politican and a leader. Politicians do what is good for them focusing on how to get re-elected.

Leaders stand up when they know something is right for the community, even if it does directly involve them.

fc1989
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Thanks to MS. Learnard on ESPLOST

Although I have not been in agreement with Ms. Learnard in the past, I am pleased to hear her and Mr. Dienhart come out in support of the ESPLOST. The continued funding for capital items and debt reduction is critical to the school system recovering financially. Many opponents have stated that they refuse to give the school system an ESPLOST renewal because of past mismanagement. Well first of all it seems that we are in the process of changing the mix of the board to get better fiscal management. Secondly, further reducing the funding for the ailing school system is like denying a heart patient a blood transfusion on the operating table because they did not exercise enough to stay in shape or they used to be a smoker. I do not deny that the board and school system made some financial mistakes which have been well document here in the Citizen. It would not be wise or helpful to discontinue this funding source for the system in light of the continued decline in property taxes and state funding.

BobbyBiplane
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More of the same

Politicians throwing good money after bad. When are we going to elect politicians who believe in living within reasonable means?

Bob

Quallacherokee
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Bobby Biplane

You answered your own question. Politicians by the very definition of Politician answers the question, the ANSWER to the problem is the ABSENCE of politicians.

mudcat
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We do elect good, reasonable people, BobbyBiplane

but then something happens to them between election night and their first big spending decisions. They realize they have the power to spend other people's money on things that they would never consider spending their own personal money on and it spirals out of control from there. Some are content to just spend, others spend to further a political or social point (Smola, Smith) and some spend to further their own political image and to secure reelection.