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.
Peachtree City, Ga.