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Memo to Cobb Leaders: Lead!

County's reputation suffers as commission, school board struggle with recession, other matters.

There was a time not too long ago that Cobb County was THE shining star in the metro Atlanta area. Everybody wanted to move to Cobb. Development exploded as families moved here because of our quality of life, our schools and the pro-business environment. In fact, separate surveys showed us as being one of the best places to live AND as THE top spot for entrepreneurs in America.

What happened? Now, we're the butt of jokes and complaints about traffic. Our school system, while among the best in the state, is wrought with instability, budget problems and way too many schools failing their students. And, why the heck can't we either find or keep a decent Superintendent? And if we saw this Recession coming, why are we reminded every day on our drive in to work that we can't even afford to in the median or right-of-way?

There WAS a time when Cobb County ran on a budget, when taxes were low and our status high. The county was well run, as was our school system. Unfortunately, some of the same folks that helped create that environment are being shunned by today's "leaders." There are still many Cobb Countians who have fond memories of those times and plenty that long for that enthusiasm and positive direction.

It's time for our Board of Commissioners and Board of Education to either get their act together or make way for a new crew. I would say that a good start would be to see the grass cut and schools run well WITHOUT having to ask residents to mow the medians and parents to buy school supplies for their kids' entire classroom.

Susan Thompson June 28, 2011 at 02:33 PM
I see sidewalks and medians being put in, but potholes in the roads. I see cutbacks for libraries being installed in a very sneaky fashion. I see new shopping centers going up while old ones remain empty. I hear about "good old boy" deals behind citizens' backs. I see no punishment for high-ups who put through deals that would be considered crooked and self-serving in lower-downs. I see people getting severance pay and then being rehired for their old jobs. I see the budget being balanced on the backs of county employees (furloughs). I see things falling apart and county commissioners refusing to raise the millage to pay for needed services. Then I go to Roswell and see new brick sidewalks, no potholes, new street lights, no potholes. Which is better, and what changed in Cobb? This is no longer a great place to live because the people in charge are more concerned with cutting taxes than in providing the services that make living here worthwhile.
Tim Langley June 28, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Jeremiah, Thanks for the response. One of the things I think we've been missing in both the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education is a lack of mission. It seems to me that folks have gotten elected and have either focused on their own issue or got right on the treadmill and started running. The first thing I'd like to see is for both groups to identify how they define Cobb County and Cobb Countians, what makes us special AND what those two groups should do to achieve that purpose. Some specific steps I'd recommend? First, I'd determine the size of the deficit and immediately instruct the County Manager to either cut salaries or lay off however many folks were needed to cover the deficit. Harsh, but necessary. Second, I'd instruct the County Manager to seek bids on sale/leaseback of county owned facilities. That alone could save and generate significant amounts of cash. Third, I would take bids on privatizing those Parks & Recreation facilities that are used primarily for team sports activities, ie. baseball, softball, football and tennis. There are private for-profit organizations that can run these facilities at a profit while maintaining them and even paying the County for the privilege of doing so. Regarding the school board, that's a tougher issue. And, I certainly don't have all the answers. But, any solution should necessarily include personnel reductions.
Tim Langley June 28, 2011 at 03:09 PM
One more point. I believe that raising the millage rate would be terribly untimely and ill-advised. I think both boards should consider a policy of never raising an individual's or commercial property owner's property tax as long as they own the property. Value reassessments should only be done upon the sale and transfer of title. This would reward property owners for maintaiing their property and stifling the Government's urge to anticipate higher tax revenues and spend beyond their current revenues.
lisa56 June 28, 2011 at 04:35 PM
I will never disagree that there is a lot of "dead weight" collecting paychecks in both the school system and county. Most of the time that "dead weight" is on the higher end of the pay scale with job protection so great that those people will never be laid off. Unfortunately, the way in which the school system reduced their work force was premeditated and based on the individual likes and dislikes of each school principal. Teachers who had been "Teachers of the Year" within the past two or three years were determined to be unsatisfactory and therefore became a part of the Reduction in Force. By having "contract not renewed" on their employee files the Cobb County School System essentially removed any possibility of these teachers ever getting a job in education in another school system. They might as well have forced these teachers to forever wear their own scarlet letters "RIF". I really like your idea about privatizing the sports parks. While I have no problem paying taxes to support county parks that provide activities for all county residents I do not believe that sports parks do so. Until I moved to Georgia twenty-four years ago I had never known of public parks specifically built for use by sports teams. In this economy we are all hurting. If we do not find some way of cutting the expenses of both the school system and the county we will have to increase taxes in order to maintain the Cobb County of which we were, at one time, very proud.
lisa56 June 28, 2011 at 04:49 PM
With costs increasing daily and the work load of each employee increasing due to layoffs I don't see how we can continue to offer the same services and quality of education without increasing the millage rate. If the downward spiral of housing values continues our ability to fund that which once made Cobb County a highly sought after place to live and work will be impossible. SPLOST has become the personal bank for both the school system and the county. I will never vote for another SPLOST because I do not believe there are enough specific controls on the money to prevent waste. Both the county and the school system should live within their means just as the citizens of Cobb County do. It may be that their means have become so meager that new methods of funding projects will have to be found. If I can be shown that budget decisions have been made with bare bones finances and yet a real need still exists I would be willing to pay a bit more in taxes.

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