NAACP to DeKalb Schools: E-SPLOST proposal lacks transparency

The DeKalb County branch of the NAACP is the latest opponent of the DeKalb County School District’s E-SPLOST V proposal, which includes no specific projects in the resolution for voters to consider on May 24.

In a letter to Superintendent Steve Green, dated April 19, NAACP President John Evans said the lack of a list of projects is concerning. The group supported E-SPLOST IV, Evans said. For that vote in 2011, the resolution included a list of projects.

If the penny tax extension is approved, the district is set to receive about $500 million from it.

“The process of asking the voters to first approve the ballot initiative, then to have a July-September period for public meetings on system and project selection criteria, followed by a Nov. 5, 2016 review of the project list and a Dec. 7 approval of the project list is somewhat disconcerting,” Evans wrote. “This is not the transparency that the citizens of DeKalb deserve.”

District officials say their plan was necessary to stay in line with the past practice of having the vote to extend the education special-purpose local option sales tax on the ballot at the same time as neighboring jurisdictions: City Schools of Decatur, Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton County. The lack of information about specific schools to be built or other improvements to be funded could have an impact on votes, for a district a few years removed from a multimillion-dollar deficit and threats of state oversight.

While Fulton and Atlanta have provided a list of projects intended for their E-SPLOST dollars, DeKalb’s list is a work in progress because new Superintendent Steve Green wants to allow parents and other DeKalb residents to have a say in the decision-making. So far, the DeKalb Board of Education has approved a list of the categories for which it seeks certain amounts, such as security, renovation and technology improvements.

State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, said in a letter to Green last week that the E-SPLOST vote could be subject to a legal challenge over the lack of specific projects. Green responded saying the language of the resolution is “constitutionally sufficient.”

The resolution says funds would be spent on items including enhancing surveillance systems, modifying and replacing some schools and building new ones, as well as purchasing buses and classroom furniture.

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