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?
[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.]