Who is driving school system financial train off the tracks?

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There have been many letters to the editor and articles written about the fate of Booth Middle School.

The decision the Board of Education makes about whether to build a new middle school or modernize the current Booth will have an impact on all the schools in the county and the local taxpayers. Here’s why.

The school system collects between $25 million and $26 million from the one percent sales tax (ESPLOST) per year.

If building a new Booth Middle School will cost between $40 million and $45 million, that project will use all of the SPLOST funds for at least 18 months.

Where will the money come from for the usual SPLOST expenditures such as buses, technology, and textbooks?

Whitewater High School is overcrowded and has trailers that are falling apart. Where will the Board get the money for new classrooms there?

There are upgrades scheduled for Fayette Intermediate School. What is the source of money for that project?

If Tyrone Elementary needs to be reopened, where will the Board find money?

What if there is an emergency, such as Huddleston had three years ago?

What if the economy slows and less money is collected?

What will have to be cut from other sources in order to fund the new school? Teachers throughout the county have said that they do not have all the supplies they need for effective teaching now.

Will employee pay have to be cut as it was several years ago?

What will happen to the current school when it is vacated? Even though there are no students, utilities, upkeep and insurance still have to be paid.

In other words, what may have to be cut out so that there will be money for a new school that is not needed?

If a new school was really NEEDED, these points would be moot, but Booth can get everything the students and staff have said is needed without spending $45 million.

They need a new and improved gymnasium, a larger cafeteria, improved and larger accommodations for the fine arts, a better and more user friendly car lane for parents picking up students, and additional classrooms to get Booth’s capacity to 1,200 students.

(If Booth’s attendance increases to over 1,200, the attendance lines can be tweaked since classroom space is readily available in middle schools in adjacent attendance areas. Also,there would be no room for these extra students at McIntosh.)

With a state grant of roughly $7 million, all of the above mentioned items can be had for about half the cost of a new building. How can you get a better bang for your tax dollars than that?

Who is driving this financial train off the tracks? It would appear as if one or two board members are pushing this issue. Why would the others on the board allow this financial disaster to happen?

The school system, over the years, has had solid financial support from the taxpayers of Fayette County. Let’s not erode that support by spending money on unneeded schools!

P.S.: There are several schools close to the age of Booth or older. Is the Board setting a precedent that will require the Board to replace these schools also because of their age?

Marion Key

Fayetteville, Ga.

[Key served as a member of the Fayette County Board of Education for 20 years, beginning in 1993, including as board chair, and ending in 2016.]

2 COMMENTS

  1. School boards everywhere have to make the hard decision of whether to rebuild a school or build an entirely new one. On paper it would appear that rebuilding is the way to go because the cost is usually less. Unfortunately, that usually isn’t the wise thing to do. Sure, you can add on and change layouts of a building – if it is conducive. Most school buildings from 40 years ago are not. Do you spend 7, 10, 20, 40 million now and still have remnants of an old building on a poor site or do you bite the bullet and go all new? Will renovations get you another 30 – 40 years out of a building or possibly only 10 to 15? I’ve seen it time and again, not only with schools but government buildings as well. The buildings are patched together but still have many faults. All you have done is kicked the can down the road. You’ve spent a good chunk of money renovating only to realize that you should have just built new to begin with. Look, I don’t like it when my school taxes go up – especially when my children do not even attend them, but we all have to look for long-term solutions. New buildings are the way to go – it’s a no-brainer.

  2. I think that the Board of Education has been conditioned to think that the citizens of Fayette will always come up with the money for education. So they feel no need to be responsible. Until we the citizens send them a message that those days are over this will never change.