Good grief. Read this article in the AJC and then come back to chat.
DeKalb County’s new school superintendent wants to shelve or scrap 35 building projects after discovering a $41 million shortfall in the sales tax-funded construction account.
The projects include improvements for disabled students, new school air conditioning systems, running tracks, emergency generators, kitchens and plumbing fixtures at facilities across the county.
Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson proposed the cuts at a special meeting of the school board Wednesday. School district officials revealed on Wednesday that they discovered a $41.35 million shortfall in the five-year construction sales tax program that expires this summer.
[Now go to our tab at the top labeled “Facts & Sources” then “Files” and download the documents presented to the board with suggested cuts to projects in a desperate attempt to recover over 40 million missing dollars.]
So, basically, the very vocal people who had access to decision-makers (or actually ARE decision-makers in the case of Ramona Tyson pushing her pet multi-million dollar tech project at the William Bradley Bryant Center or Crawford Lewis and Pat Pope who pushed to create the gleaming new Central Office), or others who managed to bloat the scope of their school projects to so far beyond the original budget as to almost be unrecognizable, and who pushed and pushed, were able to grab the big piles of SPLOST money while they were there, leaving very little in the end for things like new AC units, roofs, emergency generators, upgrades to ADA compliance, and fixing cracked running tracks.
It appears that in their mad dash to use up the cash, our fearless leaders somehow ‘forgot’ to budget millions for interest on the bonds they borrowed and failed to create and adhere to a tight project list, scope and schedule, thus creating this crevasse of missing money ensuring that many promised projects at schoolhouses will never come to be, as SPLOST IV has its own legal list of projects it must adhere to, and finishing up the unfinished lists from SPLOST II and III is not part of the SPLOST IV deal.
We were actually told a very big, fat lie by Interim COO, Barbara Colman back in August/September of 2010 that due to declining construction costs and coming in “consistently” under-budget, we had a nearly $40 million SPLOST III “Surplus”. In fact, Ramona Tyson used it to justify her pet tech project at the September ELPC meeting. (Read over the Q&A session at that meeting to see just how concerned citizens have been for a very long time.)
Although it’s not really very fun to be vindicated, but we must point out that the “crazy”, “uninformed”, “ignorant”, “radical” bloggers at DeKalb School Watch had tried for over two years to warn of the consequences of these truly bad decisions. Did the board and staff leaders not read the open letter from Faye Andreson? A member of the SPLOST II oversight committee, and a person with a high degree of involvement in SPLOST spending, Faye desperately pleaded with the board to watch their SPLOST spending. Additionally, after sending a written request for an explanation as to how certain projects jumped ahead in the queue and increased in scope, Faye was met with the following response from then board member Zepora Roberts, “By the way, your information in this letter has not been helpful because it is full of errors and omissions, and why do you think that I should provide you with additional information? Who are you anyway? It seems to me that you know it all, since you have designated yourself to try and tell the superintendent, staff and board members what to do. Please get a life Ms. Andresen.” And this one from Sarah Copelin-Wood, “Hello Faye, It is evident from your e-mail that you are continuing to weave your web of deceitfulness. It is also apparent that you are most definitely “Confused.” Therefore, let me help you – The Election Is Over – Get Over It. HAVE A GREAT ONE!!”
And so it goes. On and on. Time after time, as concerned parents and community members tried to wave the red flag of warning, they were dismissed, threatened, scoffed at or blatently ignored by members of our school board. But we were right. So whoopee. Now what?