At Issue: Can Decatur provide quality schools without high taxes?

Last week: Should local governments conduct out-of-town retreats?

Powder Springs officials meet sometimes more than once a year at Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris. They also hold one-day planning sessions, always out of town, at such places as Acworth, Rockmart and Villa Rica. We asked readers if they think out-of-town retreats are needed by city governments.

Here are some responses:

I'm appalled as a resident of Powder Springs because I see very little growth or improvements in the four years since we moved from Smyrna. So my question is what are they going to plan? — Nicole Mayo Bailey

I believe reasonably priced retreats are good if they indeed do work all day and into the evening. I believe every retreat should be filmed and available to the media/oversight and the agendas should be published in local papers or other media. I recommend retreats come under the sunshine laws. I also believe the term "retreat" should be changed to a more work-related term. — Ron Palmich

Not an issue. If the budget is correct, the spending was in order in comparison to being held locally for seven people for a couple of days. Cannot believe the food budget seems low. — Kathy Lawson

One alternative might be meeting in one of the thousands of meeting/conference rooms available in hotels or office buildings in Cobb County. — Peter Webb

Stay in the county. Hole up in a hotel if you want; but spend the money here, where at least travel costs go away and SPLOST and the county will benefit. — Wendy Kalman

I have no issue with an off-site meeting to be able to concentrate on the task at hand; but you're telling me there is no place closer to home; so you don't have to pay mileage, hotel, etc.? At a time when tax dollars are spread thin, you would think the fiduciary responsibility mindset would kick in. — Bill Adkinson

Waste of taxpayers' money! This should be STOPPED immediately! — Sam Pesce

Why aren't we spending the money within our own city? Or at the very least within Cobb County? — Juanita Morgan

Is there not a conference room at the government complex which can be used? Don't give me the avoiding interruptions bit. Lock the doors. — Eric Hesmondhalgh

I'm all for planning retreats away from daily obligations as they truly can lead to positive advancements. I hope they take advantage of this opportunity and lead well. — Jackie May Traster

Why couldn't they have used the Threadmill Mall? — Samantha Favors Nicholas

I don't have any problem with officials taking trips on my dime so long as work is getting done and we are getting benefit from at least what the trip cost. But if they are playing golf or at the beach during the day, they ain't getting no work done. — Kevin Kitchen

No, it is not necessary to get away. Let the commissioners pay their own way and see how "necessary" it becomes! — WasCatLady

Retreats, like these, are beneficial. They remove you from the distractions of your day-to-day work in a different, amenable atmosphere for education, discussion and perhaps, most important of all, the professional friendships made. — Jim Hutchinson

Carolyn Cunningham for the AJC

Decatur’s school board recently voted to ask city commissioners (on March 2) to put an $82.47 million General Obligation Bond referendum on the ballot in November.

Assuming it’s approved by commissioners and then by voters, the millage increase would be 4.84 by 2017. This means the additional tax on a $300,000 home would be $726.51 annually, on a $500,000 home $1,210.86 and on a $700,000 home $1,695.20.

Even in a city like Decatur, where the median household income is about 30 percent higher than the national level, this is no small chunk of change.

Right now CSD’s estimating it will need $94.9 million to $127 million for renovation and new construction to accommodate an enrollment that, even without annexation, is projected to swell from its current 4,336 to 7,398 by 2019.

The school board has scheduled a rare between-meetings work session (open to the public) for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Central Office/Beacon Municipal Center, 125 Electric Avenue, to further discuss the bond and its subsequent tax hike.

There’s also the question if older residents, or residents without children, or residents with children who’ve aged out of CSD, should pay for extensive school additions. In recent weeks the city’s asked the General Assembly for Homestead Exemptions for those over 65 with fixed or low incomes. It’s also collating data from a recently-completed Lifelong Community survey asking how Decatur can remain a desirable home for older residents as well as young families.

“I’m really concerned in general about the future of our school district,” co-chairman Julie Rhame told fellow board members during a Feb. 10 meeting. To paraphrase a quote from Rhame, can Decatur deliver with this projected growth a quality education? Will the tax hike drive away residents? Or do you have a suggestion on how to please everyone?

We want to hear from you. Leave comments here or send email to