Dr. Stephen Green
Superintendent, DeKalb County School District
April 19, 2016
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.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.” — Frederick Douglass
“Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”