Put the Booth question to the voters next spring

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Citizen-Letters-2

I have been concerned about the possibility of reprogramming approximately tens of millions of dollars from the project list presented to the voters in “ESPLOST III” to the construction of a new replacement for J.C. Booth Middle School.

Whether or not we should replace the current middle school, I would leave to the judgment of our excellent staff. However, we must be mindful that the structure, relative population of J.C. Booth, and excellent educational results have not changed since before “ESPLOST I” more than a decade ago.

During my ESPLOST journey in Fayette County, I have found that we have engaged citizens who thoughtfully consider facts and thoroughly consider alternatives before casting their vote to authorize the ESPLOST.

We are currently on our third ESPLOST while other counties are beginning their fifth. In other counties, ESPLOST elections have passed with healthy majorities, while ours have passed with a slim margin. Given this, I ask the Fayette County Board of Education be cautious before changing the project list and adding a new middle school building. Right or wrong, the ghost of Rivers Elementary haunts our current discussion.

To be clear, the board has the legal authority to reprogram this money without further voter input. In fact, other metro counties have done exactly this. I see the two sessions this week as a solid step toward including respecting the voters.

However, I propose the FCBOE consider putting the question of changing the project list for ESPLOST III to referendum probably this spring while we are all selecting candidates for the next presidential election. While not legally required or binding, this would again set Fayette County apart as a model of community oversight and input.

As co-chair of all three ESPLOSTs, I have found and the voters of our county have chosen to support our schools when presented with the necessary facts and other data. I believe if the case for reprogramming funds to build a new middle school building is compelling, it will be approved.

Alternatively, if the voters disagree, other maintenance projects will continue. But either way, the community has been involved in an open and transparent process.

While I have been concerned about the possibility of reprogramming a substantial part of ESPLPOST III, it is a great testament to our community that we can disagree without being disagreeable. I have said before and will again that I like and respect all the people serving our schools on the board and in the administration. It has been an honor and privilege to share the facts about our excellent and quality Fayette County Public Schools during these ESPLOST questions. I hope to continue to hear how the ESPLOSTs have contributed to our school’s continuing success.

Neil Sullivan

Peachtree City, Ga.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think a non-binding referendum is a good idea., Neil. First of all, it sets up future school boards and other elected officials with a technique to avoid or at least delay important decisions. Secondly, it is almost certain to pass or fail 45% vs. 44% among 10% of the registered voters with 10% of them leaving that question blank. All that does is create more division that encourages people to say stupid things like old people shouldn’t be allowed to vote or some such nonsense. In other words the referendum results will be meaningless. Hoping for a clear and resounding yes or no is a pipe dream.

    Better to look at the real cause of this debacle and vote out the school board members who a. were unprepared for the blindside from PTC about the roads because they didn’t do their homework (planning ahead) or b. decided to be devious in the way all this stuff with the bogus numbers was presented to the public.

    More public discussion, more transparency, even a task force willing to consider and discuss openly the possibility of discontinuing football at Booth and using the football field as a building site. That would revise the numbers dramatically and even allow for some major ON-SITE improvements to bus and parent traffic.

    I’ll bet we could find a meaningful number of parents who would eagerly circulate and sign a petition to the school board that would combine two hot-button issues – “Save Booth – Kill Kiddy Football”

  2. The BOE cannot change the list. While the wording of the SPLOST can allow for some moving around money, it cannot change the confinements of the project list by adding totally new project areas.

    This is a Peachtree City decision. They are Peachtree City streets. The BOE cannot touch them.

    Peachtree City does not want it, so end of story about public imput concerning the streets.

    I opposed the ESPLOST and warned of wasted money. Not a difficult prediction to make.