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JENKINS: Why I voted for the E-SPLOST (but understand if you didn't)

Photo by Ginny Sampson

Photo by Ginny Sampson

I was planning to write this column a couple of weeks ago, to persuade people to vote for the E-SPLOST. Then I decided to let folks make up their own minds. I understand why some didn't support the measure. I thought long and hard about it myself.

In the end, I voted for it because I am, at heart, a true believer in public schools. They're not perfect, by any means, but they are the great democratic equalizer, providing otherwise-unobtainable upward mobility for those who choose to take advantage.

Besides, I'm a public school grad, and look how I turned out. OK, bad example.

Beyond supporting public education in general, I've also been mostly pleased with the Gwinnett County Schools in particular. My children have thrived here, and I'm grateful for the experience they've had.

The quality of our schools doesn't just affect kids and parents. Everyone benefits in the form of higher property values. Yes, my home has lost a lot of value in the last three years, just like yours. But that's not the school system's fault. The fact that my home is still worth more than I paid for it --OK, almost what I paid for it -- is due to the fact that it's in a desirable cluster. And if we ever hope to see property values bounce back, we're going to have to maintain top-notch schools.

It takes money to do that, which is where the E-SPLOST comes in. Voting against it to make a point would be like voting for Obama because Mitt Romney's teeth are too straight. Besides, let's not kid ourselves. The schools are going to get the money they need somehow. Better a sales tax than increased property taxes. That way our neighbors in Hall and Barrow and Walton, who take all the close parking spaces at the mall, can help educate our kids.

That said, I understand why some people didn't want to tax themselves to raise money for a school system that hasn't always been the best stewards of those funds. It bothers me, just like it bothers a lot of you, that school leaders seem to think we're all stupid. (Which seems like an odd indictment, since so many went to Gwinnett schools.) The same politically connected developers profited obscenely from multiple land deals, and we're supposed to believe it was all an innocent coincidence? That's insulting.

In the end, though, I think school officials have learned their lesson. They had to be sweating this one. And even if someone deserves to be punished for all those questionable transactions, it's not the teachers and students, who would have been the ones to suffer had we withheld our tax money.

So once again I volunteered to fork over one percent of every purchase to support our schools. I'll be watching closely to see if they use it wisely.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and college professor. Email him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.

Comments

toby 2 years, 10 months ago

As I said before, eliminate property taxes and raise sale tax and all is well. That way we all pay.

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NewsReader 2 years, 10 months ago

Don't you just love this entire philosophical BS about "why I voted for...?” "Why I didn't vote for..." line of crap as if anybody really cares about what ideological motivations the writer may have. You decided to let people make up their own minds? Good for you. How thoughtful of you oh wise one. "...they are the great democratic equalizer..." is such a great motivating factor for me to vote for this nonsense. And your supposition that our neighbors in Hall, Barrow, and Jackson counties subsidize it? What a joke. 1% to a Gwinnett County tax payer means that virtually all expenditures will take a hit. So if I spend $50K this year for all my items, I've essentially given you $500. Compare that to our neighbors who might, if we're lucky, spend $1,000 here. OK, so they paid $10 for the benefit of buying their stuff here. The fact is most people will not go beyond about 5 miles out of their way to get their daily supply of stuff to live off of. And for the record, we are all stupid. Otherwise we wouldn't have voted for it.

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LarryMajor 2 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Jenkins, you really should have read the Whitley report to learn what actually happened, before writing this piece. This report clearly documents that those AJC articles (the apparent source of misinformation you used to defend eSPLOST opponents) were nothing but serious distortions and flat out fabrications. Those “same day” sales Tim Eberly described never happened; the time between sales agreements was years, not hours. The real estate market was so hot during this time, anyone two notches north of brain dead could make a profit, so it isn’t really surprising professionals made large profits – and it wasn’t just in Gwinnett.

The report details similar large profit real estate transactions in several counties. Eberly specifically mentioned one of these counties as having no such transactions, but public records prove his statement simply wasn’t true.

Exactly why you think school officials were nervous about this investigation is a mystery, since they commissioned it. Maybe you’re braver than I am, but I certainly wouldn’t invite a crack team of FBI agents and federal prosecutors to sift through ten years of my financial records the way school officials did.

It’s good that you voted for the eSPLOST and that you want to monitor how our BOE spends our money. The Whitley report is 200 pages of facts, timelines, prices and details of a decade’s worth of eSPLOST transactions that I expect will further convince you that your vote was the correct one.

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robjenkins 2 years, 10 months ago

First of all, I was saying school officials had to be nervous about the SPLOST vote, not the investigation. Second, you're saying I should believe a report commissioned by the school system, which completely exonerated the system, over an investigation by independent journalists? Hmmm. That's why we have journalists: to keep the government from just investigating itself.

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PCCITIZEN 2 years, 10 months ago

Enact "THE FAIR TAX" and eliminate the teachers unions. The BOE does not need more money just more accountability.

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robjenkins 2 years, 10 months ago

Georgia does not have any teachers' unions to eliminate. The GAE does not have the power in this state to operate as a union but rather functions as a professional association. But I can tell you this: If the extreme right wing continues attacking teachers as the root of the problems with education--which they are not--at some point the teachers are going to begin fighting to unionize. And even many of the more conservative among us will join the fight. That's what people do when they're attacked without justification: they band together for protection.

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