Cobb County School Board
Cobb County classroom (file)
Cobb County School Board member David Banks
MARIETTA, GA - One of the questions 11 Alive often hears from viewers is why don't school systems, like Cobb County's, take some of their special sales tax money they spend on new buildings, computers or new football fields, and spend it on teachers instead.
That's because by law they can't.
But some of Cobb's school board members want the state legislature and Georgia's voters to change that.
Under the state constitution, money from a SPLOST (Special Local Option Sales Tax) can only be spent for capital improvements, like buildings and equipment.
It can't be spent on operating costs like teacher salaries.
Like other school systems, Cobb's has seen its share of state education funds shrink the past several years, forcing cuts like no raises and another 5 furlough days expected again next year.
School Board member David Banks thinks a SPLOST for operating costs, like teacher pay, could help fill the gap.
"We need another source of funding that's sustainable that gives local control over the money and how it's spent," he told 11 Alive News on Wednesday.
Banks is proposing a constitutional amendment that would let voters decide on a penny sales tax specifically designated for operating costs, like salaries.
He thinks each local school system should be able to decide exactly where they need to spend it.
Under Banks' suggested amendment, if voters approved such a tax, any school system in a county with at least 50,000 residents would have to roll back property taxes using 30% of the proceeds from the tax.
The Cobb County School Board debated his idea during a long work session Wednesday.
Banks wanted the board to sign a letter promoting the amendment to the Georgia School Board Association.
But the issue was tabled until Thursday night's regular board meeting after two of the seven members objected.
"As a conservative Republican, I cannot support another tax," said board member Kathleen Angelucci.
She called a SPLOST a perpetual tax that once it starts, doesn't stop.
Banks replied that all he wants is for Georgia's voters to be able to decide for themselves.
Chairman Randy Scamihorn said he's also a conservative Republican, but added, "the ship's taking on a lot of water and this is our ship."
"Our dilemma is the same whether we like taxes or not," he said.
In order for Banks' idea to become law, two-thirds of the State Legislature would have to pass the constitutional amendment, which voters would then have to approve.
Even then, voters in each local school system would still decide whether to approve an operating sales tax.