Don't rebuild schools in this economy

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What a wonderful idea! Let's start tearing down existing, functional schools and then rebuild them. Former Columbia County School Superintendent Tommy Price's hand-picked successor could not have dreamed up this colossal waste of money by himself. It has the distinct odor of a certain, big-spending county commissioner.

The Augusta Chronicle needs to give a free subscription to the Columbia County BOE and the Columbia County Commission. Maybe they are not aware of our current economic woes. They appear to be blissfully ignorant.

An Augusta Chronicle headline Jan. 28 announced plans for "rebuilding" at least four county schools, while an article right below it announces additional teacher furloughs. This article also reminds us that we had also lost $13.8 million in state funds prior to the most recent cuts.

The Jan. 27 Columbia County News-Times article "School budget woes top concerns" alludes to massive cuts in education spending by the state next year. Over the past six years state lawmakers have cut $500 million from education spending. The projected state spending cuts for next year may exceed $1 billion -- more than double the previous six years spending cuts combined.

Another article in the same issue of the News-Times reports that, according to state Rep. Alan Powell, Georgia could have as many as 35 school systems at the point of "hitting the wall." These school systems will face the choice of meeting payroll or making their bond payments. Taxpayers will be on the hook, financially, when the bonds default.

When Gov. Sonny Perdue allowed school boards to increase class sizes, Columbia County canned 70 teachers. That should leave us with 70 empty classrooms to relieve overcrowding. The article also has a suggestion from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute: that teacher pay be cut.

Perdue also cut property tax assistance to homeowners in Columbia County. I urge voters in Columbia County to vote "no" on the sales tax package July 20, unless it contains relief on property taxes and guarantees that teachers will not receive any more pay cuts.

The school rebuilding plan could not have been proposed at a worst time. The proposal is utterly ridiculous!

John Sullivent

Harlem

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Dixieman
10350
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Dixieman 02/02/10 - 05:18 am
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Tax, tax, spend, spend. We

Tax, tax, spend, spend. We moved to CC because its government was more conservative and less onerous than Richmond County, but sometimes the local officials out here forget that. Good letter!

southernguy08
415
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southernguy08 02/02/10 - 07:46 am
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John, haven't you heard? The

Unpublished

John, haven't you heard? The rules of economics don't apply to government. This congressional drunk sailor spending is proof of that.

Little Lamb
40104
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Little Lamb 02/02/10 - 08:54 am
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To Mr. Sullivent: There will

To Mr. Sullivent: There will be no property tax relief in the sales tax referendum, so you are correct in calling on voters to vote NO !

jb5365
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jb5365 02/02/10 - 10:07 am
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My old school became a mall,

My old school became a mall, why not reverse the procedure??

soldout
1280
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soldout 02/02/10 - 10:14 am
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very good letter. At this

very good letter. At this point there is no real solid economic recovery and we could double dip down just as during the depression. My timing system is already negative on the stock market since early January. If congress and the president happen to accidently do something to spur growth we will all sense it and feel it but I don't know anyone feeling it now. Some predict a coming commerical real estate crash that hasn't really gotten started yet but I see hints of that in Columbia county. Most of the time the economy turns around when everyone gives up on it happening or we see tax cuts.

dstewartsr
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dstewartsr 02/02/10 - 11:03 am
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Talk about living in a

Talk about living in a different world! The idea that the county should begin a building program now, in a time of both reduced general tax collections as well as declining property values smacks of the ignorant elitism that are the hallmark of how the government works. During five years of drought the county did nothing to improve or augment the water supply. During a twelve year period marked by 350% increase in tax collections the school board built themselves a central office so large they could not fill one floor. They had to build a high school, a middle school (paid for by selling the property of the old middle school), and several elementary schools to match burgeoning enrollment. They also, as pointed out above, ditched teachers- but the bureaucracy expanded at their expense. I posted before, there are at least one or two Richmond County students in each class --this I know from four years of experience in the system-- which translates to a huge number being educated on the CC tapayer's dime. Now that the money has stagnated or declined, it's time to rebuild the system? Good thinking, guys.

egan01
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egan01 02/02/10 - 11:40 am
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The only thing worse than a

The only thing worse than a tax and spend Domocrat is a tax and spend Republican who should know better. Don't vote for the incumbents in the next election.

Chillen
16
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Chillen 02/02/10 - 11:51 am
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Stop...Spending....My...Money

Stop...Spending....My...Money! Between the proposed local spending, the totally out of control federal spending and the looming federal tax increases I'm completely paralyzed (see Drudge Report today). In our household, we have not been spending money (other than essentials) for over a year now. Everything we make we are saving. No wonder the economy is collapsing, people are afraid to spend. Stop the madness and get some fiscal discipline local & federal governments! Please!!

InMyHumbleOpinion
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InMyHumbleOpinion 02/02/10 - 12:02 pm
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Too bad the Lincoln County

Too bad the Lincoln County BOE didn't take this advice when they decided to build a 32 million dollar new High/Middle school in 2007. In a time of declining enrollment projections, Lincoln County taxpayers, who have already seen a 104.5% increase in school taxes since 2000, will be paying higher taxes for this white elephant for years to come.

602
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Barry Paschal 02/02/10 - 12:22 pm
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Good news, Mr. Sullivent:

Good news, Mr. Sullivent: These schools will NOT be built "in this economy." This is a long-range program that runs through 2017. It's called "planning ahead." And good news for you, too, Little Lamb: Apparently you aren't aware that the law creating the education sales tax REQUIRES half of the tax be used for property tax relief. So renewal of the current sales tax - which is what this program calls for - would continue to use the sales tax to reduce the portion of property taxes that go to schools. For all the ill-informed who think Columbia County's system is overbuilding (like Lincoln) or fattened up, YOU figure out how to educate an additional 500 students (that's how many new students enrolled this year) and cut 70 teachers at the same time. And then tell everyone YOUR plan for housing 500 more students the next year, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, without providing additional space for them. (Did any of the naysayers notice, by the way, that this plan eliminates one elementary school, distributing its students to two new, larger schools - thus cutting out all the administrative costs of that school and improving efficiency?)

KSL
105558
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KSL 02/02/10 - 12:29 pm
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Not to mention that

Not to mention that construction costs are down now.

Chillen
16
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Chillen 02/02/10 - 04:22 pm
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It still doesn't change the

It still doesn't change the fact that property values are down so property tax revenue is about to decline, spending is down so sales tax revenue is down, income tax revenue is down. This is likely not going to change for a few years and God forbid even more. Where do they propose to get the money from? Even if the sales tax passes it likely won't be enough to cover the costs. Might be time for some serious out of the box thinking for not just the school system but all govt agencies.

602
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Barry Paschal 02/02/10 - 05:52 pm
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Chillen: The problem is that

Chillen: The problem is that when elected officials attempt "out of the box thinking," they are met with opposition from people who are incapable of stepping outside of the box. This letter, and many of these comments, are Exhibit A. The program laid out by the school system last week provides tons of financial data, historical and projected, and maps out a detailed plan for accomplishing its goals. It "thinks outside the box" with such things as building new elementary schools to have higher capacity than has traditionally been done so fewer new schools will be needed in the future (including the immediate absorption of one current school into two new ones). This plan took months of study, yet it took mere seconds for these negative knee-jerk responses. So: Where is the call for those folks to study at least a little before they reflexively reject "out of the box thinking"?

Chillen
16
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Chillen 02/02/10 - 06:06 pm
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I think the comments you are

I think the comments you are seeing are not just reflective of this project but government aggravation in general, at least mine are. Right now most people are rightfully fed up with the spending. At some point we have got to get a handle on the problems we face locally & even more so, federally. I think they are going to face severe revenue shortages that will impede this project. What they are going to do about it remains to be seen and could require even further "out of the box" thinking. They might have to live with crappy school facilities for a good bit longer. No matter what they do some will be happy, some will not. I'm good as long as they have the money & it doesn't cost me one red cent more. Build away!

socks99
250
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socks99 02/02/10 - 08:26 pm
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New building projects have a

New building projects have a marginal effect on teaching efficiency. What many miss is the fact that these bond projects make lots of money for Wall Street firms and they do everything they can to get local governments and schools to sign on the dotted line. Make no mistake, the taxpayers WILL pay for these projects and it'll be money they don't have to hire teachers or pay them decent salaries. Sure, building costs are lower now, and that's because those fat-cat banksters stoked a financial crisis that is punishing the average citizens with rampant unemployment. And, these same guys, now, want to keep selling bonds and slicing and dicing them and do to the rest of the economy what they did to everyone else!

602
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Barry Paschal 02/02/10 - 11:28 pm
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Socks: The primary funding

Socks: The primary funding source for this proposal is the sales tax, which by law can't be used to fund teacher salaries. So that's not relevant to the conversation.

veritas14
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veritas14 02/02/10 - 11:40 pm
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Barry-Is it the primary

Barry-Is it the primary funding source or the only funding source? If it is primary as you claim, then socks' comment may be relevent.

JoeWillie
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JoeWillie 02/03/10 - 01:36 am
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The American people have

The American people have become a bunch of greedy hoarders. They're not spending any money so the cities, counties and States are not collecting enough taxes to pay for school construction ets. Small businesses are suffering because they don't have any customers. President Obama and the Democrats have made it crystal clear; We must spend our way out of this recession. FDR was right when he said, "the American people need a NEW DEAL" !!!

Chillen
16
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Chillen 02/03/10 - 11:53 am
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JoeWillie people aren't

JoeWillie people aren't spending because 1. they don't have it to spend 2. they are saving their money so they can afford to pay their mortgage if they lose their job or their pay decreases (this is the thinking of a mature adult who plans for their future) 3. they are saving to pay the multitudes of higher taxes that are looming on the horizon. I would hardly call any of those reasons "greedy" except for #3 and the only greed there is the greed of the government taking our money to spend as they see fit.

Col.Co.grown
0
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Col.Co.grown 02/03/10 - 07:37 pm
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The dictionary defines an

The dictionary defines an opinion as "a view or judgement not necessarily based on facts or knowledge". Mr. Sullivent and others who have bashed the Columbia County building plan need to do a little research before flying off the handle and telling everyone to vote NO for the eSPLOST on July 20th. First of all, the ePLOST is not a new tax...it is a continuation of the previous eSPLOST which has built several schools over the past 5 years (Evans Middle, Lewiston, Cedar Ridge, Stallings Island and the new Grovetown High). You will not see an increase in taxes...only continue with the sales tax option that was voted on 5 years ago and has provided $90 million dollars to build the aforementioned schools. Second, the schools that will be rebuilt/eliminated are all 50-60 years old and are not up to par with other schools in the county in regards to electrical, sewage and plumbing, technological capabilities and space. (Newer schools have up to 150 sq feet more per classroom than older schools, but still have the same number of students and desks!). It would cost nearly $6 million to bring just one of these school up to par in the most "basic" sense and that would not increase space or classrooms. Third, if the eSPLOST is not passed this July you can bet that you will definitely be paying more property taxes...not to build new state of the art schools, but to keep basic maintenance of schools that are leaking, have mold and mildew issues and can not contain the electrical demands needed to keep up with 21st century technology. If the eSPLOST is passed the burden falls on everyone who shops in Columbia County, not just property owners. Fourth, the budget cuts that have come from the state and federal government effect the instructional monies provided to school systems to pay for teachers and other instructional necessities. You can not transfer funds from one pot to another. SPLOST funds cannot be used to make up these deficits. Likewise with the argument "Why don't they use lottery money to pay for teachers?". Lastly, "YES" we are in the midst of difficult economic times...but hoarding your money in mason jars and burying them in the backyard is not going to fix it. Imagine the local jobs and income that this building plan will provide. I am encouraging everyone to vote YES on July 20th...Let's share the burden with people who rent, visit, and work in our county by passing a sales tax that is not new, but a continuation of what we passed several years ago.

socks99
250
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socks99 02/13/10 - 04:08 pm
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Barry, it makes no difference

Barry, it makes no difference where the funding comes from. It's tax money regardless. As I said, new school buildings have a marginal effect on teaching effectiveness.

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Judge denies request to delay sales tax vote

A superior court judge denied a request Wednesday from a Richmond County citizen seeking a court order to postpone the May 20 special purpose local option sales tax referendum.
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