Board Of Education
Last week State Senator Fran Millar relayed the numerous complaints he has received about the lack of a project list in the E-SPLOST V referendum and his concerns about the possible vulnerabilities to a legal challenge in an open letter to Superintendent Green.
Senator Millar asked Dr. Green to wait until next spring for a vote saying, “This will give you time to determine the specific projects and hold your planned community meetings.”
DeKalb E-SPLOST Project List
BOE Passes E-SPLOST V
This week Superintendent Green sent an open letter to Senator Fran Millar expressing how, in his opinion, the E-SPLOST V referendum has a constitutionally sufficient description of the specific capital outlay projects. Dr. Green goes on to detail some of the projects that, while not delineated in the referendum, have been identified for this E-SPLOST.
Superintendent Green Believes E-SPLOST V Language Meets Requirements (Apr 21, 2016)
Sen. Fran Millar – Not a Fan of the E-SPLOST Language (Apr 20, 2016)
Dr. Stephen Green
Superintendent, DeKalb County School District
Dear Senator Millar:
I have received your letter about DeKalb County School District’s proposal to continue the educational SPLOST to fund capital projects for District students. Contrary to assertions otherwise, the Resolution and Ballot question calling for the continuation of this source of educational funding in DeKalb County does contain a constitutionally sufficient description of the specific capital outlay projects to be funded with the tax. The Resolution and Ballot question adopted by the DeKalb Board of Education specifically describe the major, permanent capital projects to be funded with the tax as:
(1) Safety and Security (e.g. enhancing surveillance systems, fire alarms systems, fire sprinkler installation, perimeter fencing, etc.);(2) New Facilities and Additions (e.g. modifying, replacing, reconfiguring schools and facilities or creating new schools/facilities to accommodate current and future student enrollment);
(3) Facility Condition Improvements; (e.g. roofing, plumbing, wiring, painting, water piping, HVAC, making athletic field and physical education facility upgrades and improvements, ADA renovations, infrastructure improvements, repaving, restroom facilities, systems for environmental and air quality control, physical education facilities, kitchens, improvements to comply with health, safety and applicable building codes, traffic control and optimization, parking and parking capacity, stormwater management facilities, and program-driven modifications);
(4) Enterprise Resource Planning upgrade and technology improvements (e.g. purchasing, installing an upgrading instructional technology, digital communication technology, enhanced school security solutions, wireless technology, enterprise content management solutions, replacement and/or enhancement of technology/systems in support of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) upgrade, data storage systems, telecommunication systems, digital records retention, technology hardware, software, and related infrastructure);
(5) Purchases of buses, vehicles and other capital equipment (e.g. desks, chairs, tables, instructional equipment, band equipment, kitchen equipment, waste compactors, portable classrooms/modular buildings, custodial equipment, grounds equipment);
(6) Expenses related to the projects.
Each of these project areas is specific and has an allocated budget. Further, within these six specific project areas, the District has identified more detailed proposals. For instance, the District has represented and communicated to the public that SPLOST V funds allocated for the safety and security project will include the purchase and refurbishing of surveillance systems to protect District students and property. The SPLOST V funds allocated for transportation projects will include replacing and replenishing the District’s aging bus fleet, keeping transportation safe for our students and helping control fuel/maintenance costs. The SPLOST V funds allocated for renovation projects will include improving compliance with ADA standards for physical structures. SPLOST V funds allocated for technology projects will include upgrading the District’s ERP system to improve efficiency. And, critically, SPLOST V funds allocated for new facilities projects will include building two new elementary schools in the Cross Keys cluster to relieve overcrowding. Each of these specific undertakings has been discussed by the Board and communicated to the public as proposals for SPLOST V.
In our view, sufficient description has been provided to meet the constitutional requirement. The capital projects are specifically described, serve educational purposes, and are all for the clear benefit of DeKalb County students. We are not aware of any constitutional provision, statute, case law, or attorney general opinion that contradicts our view under these descriptions. In fact, other similar SPLOST resolutions have been passed and adopted, and I’ve enclosed some of them with this letter.
Most importantly, however, is this: it is critical that voters make the final decision on whether this SPLOST is worthy. If they believe they do have adequate information, they may vote “Yes.” If the voters do not believe they have adequate information on the projects to be funded, then the voters may vote “No” to the SPLOST. No matter what, voters should not be disenfranchised, deprived of an opportunity to make their voices heard. Without SPLOST, there may be insufficient funding to upgrade safety and security systems; to relieve overcrowding; to purchase educational technology and other capital equipment; or to make the major facility improvements needed at existing facilities, all at the true expense of the children of DeKalb County. These potential shortfalls would leave the children of DeKalb County with challenges not faced by other districts and put them at risk of falling behind their peers.
Senator Millar, the DeKalb County schools are turning around after years of neglect and mismanagement but are headed in the right direction. Graduation rates are up; SAT scores have improved significantly; academic growth is evident in recent standardized tests. We have rebounded from a budget deficit and now have a modest fund balance. All teachers recently received a much needed pay raise.
On behalf of our 101,000 students, parents, DeKalb Board of Education, and our employees, we ask you to join us for this SPLOST vote to give our students a chance for a bright future.
Dr. R. Stephen Green
CEO & Superintendent
Cc: DeKalb Board of Education
How much detail is needed on the ballot in describing proposed SPLOST projects?
The SPLOST law requires that the purpose or purposes (i.e., the capital outlay projects) for which the SPLOST revenues will be used be specified on the ballot. The degree of specificity required is not addressed in the law. However, the
Attorney General of Georgia has concluded that:
“There is no necessity that the description of the purpose or purposes for the tax be in exacting detail. Rather, the
description and the purposes must be only so specific as to place the electorate on fair notice of the projects to
which the tax will be devoted.” [Op. Atty. Gen. U90-18]. The opinion suggests that a brief statement such as “county judicial facility” or “recreational facility to be constructed within the City of ______” is sufficient.
In Dickey v. Storey, 262 Ga. 452, 455 (1992), the referendum question described county “recreational facilities and
multi-purpose governmental facilities.” The Georgia Supreme Court apparently found these descriptions adequate.
Senator Millar is right about this one. Dr. Green has no idea of the influence peddling he will see from some powerful insiders. Dr. Green, the machine is stronger than you are.
Hmmm. Dr. Green doesn’t understand the trust issues many of us have with DeKalb schools leadership. This looks like yet another opportunity to ‘say’ you’re going to work on issues in the Cross Keys cluster in order to get the votes you need, but then funnel the money everywhere but Cross Keys. It’s been happening since SPLOST II when Cross Keys was actually on the list. The school system did a very minimal ‘fluff job’ after so much negative media attention on the condition of the building. I’m betting they stick with their current new plan of simply busing the students from over-crowded, under-renovated schools in the cluster to schools in other clusters – that have been renovated and enlarged even though they don’t have as many students. The specific plan needs to be in writing. That’s how I read the law … “place the electorate on fair notice of the projects to which the tax will be devoted”. You have to at least make a list of projects (ie; new high school addition at Cross Keys… new auditorium at Cross Keys – the only high school that never had one built). Of course, if past behaviors are taken into account, putting ‘plans’ in writing won’t mean a thing.
Yes, his reaction to the letter is what I would call FLUFF! …no clear answer. The citizens do no understand and I feel it will be a big NO on vote. Confidence has not been established yet with adm. Seems like same old same old!
In the movie business, this would be comparable to a “treatment”. It’s not even an outline for a screenplay. You shouldn’t start writing the screenplay without an outline. No one plunks down their $ on a treatment. Or a screenplay, for that matter, unless the product is deemed a win by someone with a functional crystal ball. Anybody feelin’ it here??
Cere — how long was Green searching and in the interview process. How long has he been on the job. If this man doesn’t know by now what the trust issues are with the voters of this County, then, I want what he’s smokin’. Cuz the man would be clueless. Without resolving any concerns that the average citizen has regarding allocation of funds and the opulence, the luxury of the Central Office, he hired 3 of his buddies. No real fanfare over anything done for teachers and students. Loser.
Try this … work backwards from the assumption that you want this to pass. You now have two things to decide: 1) When do you have the referendum and 2) What’s on it.
When do you have the referendum? You have 4 options (ESPLOST collections start in July 2017): 1) The March Presidential Preference Primary, 2) The May 2016 Primary , 3) The November 2016 General, 4) May 2017
If you go with May 2017, you risk splitting the penny sales tax with another SPLOST. There might be SPLOST fatigue from November and even if it passed you might only get half a cent instead of the full one cent.
If you go in November, there are will be a TSPLOST on the ballot as well which regularly gets voted down. If you want ESPLOST to pass, you don’t want it on the same ballot as TSPLOST.
March 2016 was too soon and just logistically not possible. So, if you want ESPLOST to pass you put it on the May 2016 ballot.
Now, what do you put in the referendum? Do you sit down with your staff and the board and hammer something out over a period of a few days or weeks … or do you spend months engaging the community etc… Dr. Green and the board wanted as much community involvement as possible before nailing down a list. So they were very specific on many of the items and they plan on a lot of community engagement before putting a “New Facilities” list together.
My input was, I’m not voting ‘yes’ without a project list and community input.
The Dekalb County taxpayer does not have a bottomless pit of money. The County wants 1% to fix our roads. The DCSS wants to keep its 1%. The net impact would be an 8% sales tax in Dekalb while two miles down the road in Gwinnett it is 6%. That is bad for business in Dekalb and bad for the consumer. Dr. Green, a large percentage of us are senior citizens on fixed income that is not even close to your $300,000+. I’m surprised that this thing got by the school board because this hike in the sales tax rate is very regressive and hurts the very people that the majority on the board represent. Get your list together, why each item is needed in measurable parameters, and the specific consequences of not getting approval — then let’s talk. For now, I cannot vote for this SPLOST.
And let’s not forget the $300,000 spent under a “stretch” interpretation of SPLOST IV provisions to buy new cars for administrators during the middle of the Great Recession. Now tell me again why we need SPLOST V.
Perhaps the SUPER is hedging his bets in the “gamble” of the TAD Doraville Ruin Vortex…(remember, the $30 million his predecessor suddenly “found” and saved the day…we probably won’t know where it really came from but it had to be someone’s ‘kitty’…). Re: Front page AJC 4/22…a pitchman pitches the newspaper? Are you kidding?? If you need the e-Splost V, who gets the money? The ‘Super’ needs to come clean EXACTLY and not think voters are blind enough to fail to see that increased taxes from e-Splost is just a way of keeping the TAD group hopes alive for the school district to burden itself by directly salvaging local communities” delusions. At this point, it’s about convincing the new SUPER that–judging from what has come before–e-Splost V should bring out a huge NO VOTE unless and until the SUPER PLEDGES the full path of the money…schools only. No automobiles, no financial and direct support of local cities’ aspirations and an end to hiring and employment practices patently inefficient.
Beyond these issues I have some problem with DCSD’s promoting the SPLOST vote. One of the basic rules all staff is told is that no county funds, facilities and personnel can be used to back a political cause or candidate. Yet a full color brochure arrived at schools last week regarding the upcoming vote. Emails were sent to staff regarding the importance of the vote and the deadline to register. I understand this is not a major expense but I see it as an ethics violation. If the efforts and expense came from a school foundation this would be a different story, but this is employees using public money to protect their interest.
Steven, is the brochure informational or is it promotional? Can you scan the brochure and send it to me? Can you also cut and paste the email and send it to me?
@More >> Let me clarify my statement. I would probably assume that Green is well-versed in the public’s mistrust of the school district leadership. I would also probably honestly have to assume that he has been told to ignore that chorus – as those who are paying attention are a smaller group than those who can be convinced that ‘magic money’ (ie; tax dollars claimed to be paid by ‘visitors’) will pay the price for a Brand New School for Your Child!!
Dr. Green has not described “specific capital outlay projects.” He has described types of capital projects. It’s somewhat disturbing that he won’t acknowledge the difference, or worse, that he doesn’t know the difference. I wonder if he would go to a bank and apply for a construction loan with just a written description of various elements that go into a house, informing them that it would be built somewhere in DeKalb County sometime in the next five years. How far would he get with that?
As Senator Millar has pointed out in his letter, in addition to describing specific projects, the constitution requires a SPLOST proposal to provide a maximum cost for each project. How can you possibly develop a budget and determine maximum costs without delineating specific projects?
What Dr. Green and DCSS are asking for is a blank check. They’re saying, “Trust us.” Sorry. For me, at least, that possibility disappeared long ago. For the first time, I will vote against a SPLOST proposal. And I will actively encourage friends and family to do the same.
The DCSS SPLOST page proudly proclaims that, since 1997, we’ve spent over $1.2 billion on our schools. That’s over $63 million a year (over and above DCSS’s budget) and, as noted in another thread on this page, this year we still have students in over 400 trailers.
It’s also worth noting that the SPLOST fund spigot isn’t going to dry up anytime soon. We haven’t even spent all of SPLOST III funds yet. According to the school system’s latest SPLOST Monthly Status Report, the system has expended 85% of SPLOST III funds and only 30% of projected funding from SPLOST IV. We will be spending SPLOST IV funds well into 2020. So when SPLOST V fails, there’s no need to cry over DCSS’s inability to continue spending on school facility improvements.
Did anyone else note that DCSD’s Round 1 Presentation from April 10/12 included a prime reason for concern over DCSD transparency and competency with SPLOST?
The presentation shows that Region 4 high school enrollment has decreased every year since 2009, and now has over 1500 excess high school seats. DCSD projects that in 2022 there will still be over 1200 excess high school seats in Region 4.
Yet the presentation shows that DCSD spent $45 million in previous SPLOST funds to add 1200 high school seats to Region 4. And it wasn’t that long ago.
A SPLOST III 2011 year end report available at http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/splost-iv shows that by June 2011 only a small portion of SPLOST funds had been spent (approximately $2.3 million) to add these high school seats to Region 4.
Yet in spite of decreasing Region 4 middle school enrollment since 2008 (with a slight uptick in 2011) and decreasing Region 4 high school enrollment since 2009, DCSD went ahead and spent all $45 million to add unnecessary seats.
In addition, DCSD ignored its own data that shows increasing Region 1 middle school enrollment since 2009.
Guess what? Region 1 high school enrollment showed an increase in 2012, exactly when those middle schoolers hit high school. Nothing was done to substantially increase high school capacity in Region 1.
Enrollment projection isn’t a science, so some errors are expected. But here is a prime example of DCSD choosing to spend precious SPLOST money in exactly the wrong place.
This makes me wary about the current enrollment projections from DCSD. Might we have deja vu all over again?
I am also wary about approving SPLOST V when the ballot language makes absolutely no commitment to addressing Region 1 overcrowding. Just because it is an obvious need doesn’t ensure that the SPLOST money will be spent there.
NAACP to DeKalb Schools: E-SPLOST proposal lacks transparency
“The process of asking the voters to first approve the ballot initiative, then to have a July-September period for public meetings on system and project selection criteria, followed by a Nov. 5, 2016 review of the project list and a Dec. 7 approval of the project list is somewhat disconcerting … This is not the transparency that the citizens of DeKalb deserve.”
From: Dr. R. Stephen Green, Superintendent
To: All DeKalb County School District Employees
Please take note of the following key dates…and PLEASE REMEMBER TO VOTE!
• April 26, 2016 – Last day to register to vote for the General Primary on May 24
• May 2, 2016 – Early voting begins for the General Primary on May 24
• May 14, 2016 – Saturday early voting
• May 24, 2016 – Election day
For more information on voting, including registration in DeKalb County, go to http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/Voter/CurrentElectionInfo.html
To learn more about E-SPLOST − including definitions, history, budget allocations, timeline, sample referendum, videos, and additional resources − visit http://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/e-splost
DeKalb NAACP refutes E-SPLOST news story, offers apology to DeKalb schools’ chief
The NAACP DeKalb Branch has issued a statement refuting a news story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) concerning the branch’s stance on the proposed E-SPLOST V ballot initiative.
“The NAACP wanted an assurance that the funds generated by E-SPLOST V would be equitably expended throughout the County”
“It is regrettable that the author of the online news article from such a renowned newspaper would deliberately and shamelessly post an untrue article such as the one being referenced. The statement about the NAACP opposing E-SPLOST is false, and a retraction is requested,” Evans stated.