School board sets SPLOST meeting

By Greg Gelpi

Up to $85,000 could be spent on a special election to extend the current Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

The Clayton County Board of Education will meet at 6:30 p.m. July 26 to consider a resolution to hold a special election.

Since the election to extend the 1-cent sales tax would be the only item on the ballot, it could cost the school system as much as $85,000, said Annie Bright, the director of the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration.

The Georgia Secretary of State's Office encourages special elections to be combined with regular elections to save costs, said Sam Dawkins, a public information officer with the office.

Brian Miller, the school system's director of facility auxiliary services and purchasing, said there is no time to hold the election during next week's primary election and that holding off until the general election in November would create a gap in tax collections.

"My concern is the cost," said Artansa Snell, the chairwoman of the Clayton County NAACP education committee. "Why would we have an election for one question? I just don't know if that is fiscally responsible of the board."

Snell said the money could instead be used for teachers, supplies and other items.

Miller explained that a SPLOST must be passed 80 days prior to the start of collections. The current SPLOST expires Dec. 31.

"In order to satisfy the 80-day rule, the November election would be out of the question," he said.

Doug Craig, a member of the Clayton County Libertarian Party, said that his party will oppose the tax and that a special election only makes the matter worse.

"Usually the money used by the government is used so inefficiently that it is better kept in the home," Craig said. "(The special election) is just another inefficient use of taxpayer money."

Board member Ericka Davis asked that the county separate the actions of board members, which landed the school system on a yearlong probation, from consideration of a tax extension. Davis further said that the system has wisely spent money raised by the existing SPLOST and that the system would continue to do so with an extension.

A SPLOST extension would fund the construction of three elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school. It would also fund improvements throughout the school system, including the construction of a new technology building and improvements, renovations and additions to many existing schools.

Craig charged that the election is being considered for September to produce a low voter turnout.

"There's no doubt about it," he said.

A special election would bring government employees to the polls, but not the general public, which doesn't support the tax, Craig said.

Miller denied that that is a consideration.

In other business, the board approved Derrick Manning, a principal from Cartersville, to be principal of North Clayton High School by a 7-0 vote, and Paul Kraack to be the director of student services with a 4-3 vote.

Board members Nedra Ware, Connie Kitchens and Carol Kellam voted against Superintendent Barbara Pulliam's recommendation of Kraack.

Kraack had been the coordinator of community relations and public affairs for the system under Superintendent Dan Colwell.

When the board, led by Ware, fired Colwell in January 2003, Kraack was removed from his position.

Micromanagement by the board was cited by the system's accrediting agency as one reason for its probation.

Board members Bob Livingston and Linda Crummy were absent.