0

LETTERS: T-SPLOST campaign shows Gwinnett leaders out of touch

Of the failed T-SPLOST campaign, Gwinnett Chamber President Jim Maran said, "We're so pleased with the collaboration demonstrated by business and community leadership, leading up to this vote -- it sets a wonderful tone for working together in the future."

He's pleased; We're not. The collaboration that so pleased Maran did not include the taxpayers, who give the Chamber more than $1 million per year and who soundly rejected the T-SPLOST sales campaign. The tone I hear is a rising grumble from taxpayers that is turning into a roar.

Taxpayers are not pleased with the collaboration between the Gwinnett Chamber and Gwinnett County Public Schools, the Board of Commissioners, the Gwinnett County Visitors' Bureau, the cities in Gwinnett and the CIDs.

GCPS claims it pays salaries of Chamber employees because it is a good investment. Are payments made year after year without any contract or vote by the school board a good investment? If getting a return on investment was their only motivation, why didn't they use taxpayer's education funds to buy a McDonald's franchise?

If those two employees can generate $800 million in economic activity, let them do fundraising for the Chamber so they won't need taxpayer's money.

If the chamber generated $800 million in economic activity, brought 280 businesses to Gwinnett County and created 12,000 jobs, and you used those claims to continue to get taxpayer money year after year, there should be detailed documentation to support those claims. We would expect you to be proud of your accomplishments and more than willing to provide documentation to support them. Where is it?

Ronald Reagan said, "Trust, but verify." Are Gwinnett taxpayers going to allow taxpayer funding of the chamber to continue without accountability?

Sabrina Smith,

Chairman Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government

Comments

neillrb 1 year, 8 months ago

This episode stinks of fishy numbers. I have NEVER heard of a Return of Investment that produced $800 million out of a couple of employees!

Could somebody please get the number of these employees so I can hire them? Or are they Madoff's buddies?

Second thoughts. If it's too good to be true - it's a lie.

Third thoughts. If it's true - show us an' blow your trumpet. "Great job" I would say!

0

Mack711 1 year, 8 months ago

Taxpayers should not be giving tax money to the Chamber. They should operate from funds donated by business that support their platform. As for the BOE donating, they should use those funds to educate our students not a large company who has money.

2

STEVERAMEY 1 year, 8 months ago

My understanding is GCPS has no idea of exactly what those two employees generate. From Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce website: Our Mission: To serve as the voice for business to create and grow quality job opportunities while enhancing the community’s quality of life. The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce offers the metro Atlanta business community opportunities for growth while working with regional partners to collaborate on economic and community development initiatives in Georgia. With core objectives to create quality jobs and wealth, strengthen the community and grow your business, the Gwinnett Chamber services over 2,700 members in metro Atlanta while delivering solid programs and potential to connect your business regionally and globally. Sounds like a private enterprise. Why would taxpayer monies fund this private org.

1

JimmyOrr 1 year, 8 months ago

Sabrina, first of all, I would like to thank you for bringing this issue before "We the People" aka taxpayers. I suppose it is poetic justice beginning your letter with a reference to TSPLOST which as you well know, has become TSPLAT. I surmise if the issue of whether the voters wanted their tax dollars to fund the Gwinnett Chamber and for the GCPS to fund the salaries of two Chamber employees, the voters would give this issue another SPLAT. It is time for the Chamber to either fish or cut bait. If the Chamber has created $800 million in economic activity, brought 280 new businesses to Gwinnett, and created 12,000 new jobs, show us the documentation to support and verify such claims. If this documentation cannot be provided and ongoing the Chamber cannot support their mission via corporate and individual memberships perhaps it is time for them to fold their tent.

2

RetiredGolfer 1 year, 8 months ago

This is outrageous. How can the school board pay the salaries of Gwinnett Chamber employees with property taxes designated for education? Is that even legal? Has the school board explained this? Have any reporters asked them to explain why they are giving our property tax money to the chamber? I hope the US attorney includes this in her investigation to clean up politics in Gwinnett County. It seems that every day a new scandal comes to light. Where to taxpayers go to get a REFUND of all of our tax money that has been used by crooked politicians for land deals, the stadium, the golf course, the trash plan and the chamber?

2

motherinduluth 1 year, 8 months ago

I think the SPLOSTS had/have there place. Didn't they start as true "Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes"? I seem to remember the itemization of exactly what would be done, specific information about why it was proposed, and it was voted on LOCALLY for usually 2 years. I had always thought that SPLOSTS had adequate accountability. But, I started looking at the details of the renewed ESPLOST and was appalled by the proposed projects that all increased the annual operating budget of school systems that are increasing class sizes, and cutting teacher benefits and salaries for I believe the 5th consecutive year. The first thing that was done is for GCPS to take out a loan so they could spend funds before they were even collected. And now, "Surprise" the ESPLOST collections have been way under budget and they've already overspent. But maybe, ESPLOST has gone towards the education of the voters and taxpayers.

2

motherinduluth 1 year, 8 months ago

I think the SPLOSTS had/have their place. Didn't they start as true "Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes"? I seem to remember the itemization of exactly what would be done, specific information about why it was proposed, and it was voted on LOCALLY for usually 2 years. I had always thought that SPLOSTS had adequate accountability. But, I started looking at the details of the renewed ESPLOST and was appalled by the proposed projects that all increased the annual operating budget of school systems that are increasing class sizes, and cutting teacher benefits and salaries for I believe the 5th consecutive year. The first thing that was done is for GCPS to take out a loan so they could spend funds before they were even collected. And now, "Surprise" the ESPLOST collections have been way under budget and they've already overspent. But maybe, ESPLOST has gone towards the education of the voters and taxpayers.

0

gwinmom 1 year, 8 months ago

It is certainly frustrating to be a regular citizen and feel as if all the important decisions for this county are being made behind closed doors. Those decisions affect our home values and the quality of our children's education and they seem to be made with impunity. I am very interested in the school board districts that have opposition this year. It will be interesting in November to see if we at last have an opportunity for some dissension. I hope we get the chance to elect some people who care about transparency and the needs of the community.

1

Amy4OurKids 1 year, 8 months ago

If paying the Chamber salaries is such a great investment then why not be transparent? Visit VoteJenFalk.Com - transparency is a huge part of her platform. I am sure you are finding interesting.

I believe that we need to view each and every GCPS budget dollar as a key to our children's future. Demand the BEST schools for your kids. Make sure our teachers are paid and furlough days go away before anyone in the central office gets another pay or benefit increase. If Gwinnett County had the very best schools, not only will our children get what they deserve but others will move here in droves. Empty homes will be sold, tax revenue will increase and good things will follow.

Vote for transparency. Vote for Jen Falk!

0

motherinduluth 1 year, 8 months ago

This is Jen Falk's response to the AJC and League of Women Voters when asked about SPLOST & GCPS. All the board member candidates were asked to respond - Jen's answer was the only one brave enough to call out the chamber agreement.

"Do you think that the SPLOST should be used for any part of annual operating expense? If so how much stated as a percent? Yes – if closely monitored. We are close to the millage rate cap and do not want to raise property taxes. The state continues to cut funding even as local property revenues are declining. The School Board could use SPLOST dollars to avoid massive teacher layoffs and end furlough days. However, it’s crucial that those dollars not get “lost” in the budget and end up being used irresponsibly as they were when the Gwinnett County School Board funded economic development positions for the Chamber of Commerce."

Transparency and accountability from elected officials should be a given. Unfortunately, they are qualities that are in short supply among board members today.

0

SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

motherinduluth: I agree with you that transparency and accountability should be expected from elected officials. We were puzzled when our open records requests showed no minutes of any school board meeting where the payments to the Chamber were discussed, no contract existed to support the payments or outline why the payments were being made and what was expected in return, and apparently no vote was ever taken on this issue by the school board. We have asked for an explanation of how the school board determined that they received $6 million in return for the payment of Gwinnett Chamber salaries, but we have not received a response. We initially started making inquiries into this in February, so I think we have been very patient in waiting for a response.

1

Mack711 1 year, 8 months ago

SPLOST= Special PrivilagesLOST

1

RetiredGolfer 1 year, 8 months ago

So what do we do? How do we get answers, or will the Chamber and the school board just ignore voters or tell us they don't owe us an explanation?

1

BevL 1 year, 8 months ago

If the Chamber of Commerce is producing a return on investment as outstanding as they claim, then I would think they would be proudly presenting the supporting reports to the citizens of Gwinnett County. Our Commissioners should be demanding accountability from the Chamber and open records. The GCPS system gives money to the Chamber because it is a good investment? I recall the GCPS thought their "deal" on their new headquarters was a good investment. "The unusual sale and lease-back arrangement ended up costing Gwinnett taxpayers about $34 million more than if the school district had simply held onto the building and paid for the renovation with cash on hand, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found". The taxpayers of Gwinnett County are really fed up.

1

SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

Hi Bev: It doesn't seem to matter if taxpayers are fed up. When I contacted GCPS to ask if they were going to continue to use education tax dollars to pay the salaries of Gwinnett Chamber employees, while freezing teacher pay, furloughing teachers and cutting expenses, I was told that they were going to continue to what they have done since 2007. I have repeatedly asked Sloan Roach to explain how GCPS determined that they received $6 million in return for paying chamber employees' salaries, but she has not responded. They don't care if Gwinnett residents have questions.

1

RetiredGolfer 1 year, 8 months ago

Sabrina: What do we do? This stinks. Who do we call to stop this?

0

SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

Call your school board members and your county commissioners. You can do a google search for Gwinnett County Public Schools and the board members are listed on the website. You can also search for Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners and find the bio and contact information on the county website for all 4 commissioners. .

0

SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

I asked Gwinnett County Public Schools how they determined that they received $6 million in return for paying the salaries of Gwinnett Chamber employees, as they had said in a press statement. I received an email response this afternoon that said, in part:

"Other than what was provided in the district's statement I do not have any additional information on this topic."

A lot of people wanted to know if they could pay salaries at the Gwinnett Chamber and get $6 million in return. Donald Trump doesn't even get that kind of return on investment.

1

jackster 1 year, 8 months ago

I just got off the phone with Mary Kay Murphy (I called the # on her campaign website). I asked her specifically about school system $ going to the chamber, and she flatly told me that is untrue. My question was going to be where is it in th ebudget - I cannot find it.

So... where is it in the budget?

Also, she could not discuss topics which did not align with her talking points. The only technology points she could say is, "Hey - we're goign to try try ebooks!" and "Technology is necessary."

Then, she couldn't (or wouldn't) talk to the fact that our school counselors are not staffed appropriately to handle the rising case load, thereby forcing our teachers to work that much harder.

0

SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

jackster: You can go to the GwinnettPetition website and see a copy of the invoice from the Gwinnett Chamber for their employees' salaries that are paid by Gwinnett County Public Schools. I obtained it from an open records request and GCPS was required by law to provide it to me. I am surprised that Mary Kay Murphy claimed that there have been no payments to the Gwinnett Chamber. GCPS released a statement saying that Superintendent Wilbanks discussed this with the school board and they approved it, but additional open records requests show that there are no minutes of any meeting in which this was discussed. I have sent emails to all school board members on this issue. I would love for Mary Kay Murphy to officially go on record saying that these payments have not been made, so that we might finally be able to get real answers to our questions about these payments. You are welcome to contact me at my email address which is my user name on this posting at a hotmail.com address. I am happy to provide the results of open records requests to anyone who asks.

0

SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

jackster: If Mary Kay Murphy is right, and everything I have said, and all of the documents I have received from open records requests are, "untrue", I would be happy to retract all of my statements, take down the GwinnettPetition website, and apologize. Because I have sent her emails asking about this issue that she has not answered, she has my email address.

Dr. Murphy: I look forward to receiving an email from you about my "untrue" statements so that you can point out my mistakes and I can apologize.

1

Amy4OurKids 1 year, 8 months ago

As my child crams into an even more crowded classroom this week I wonder how did funds go for Chamber Salaries and not Teacher Salaries. As I read these articles I hear Gwinnett saying this is a great investment. If it is such a great investment then be upfront, be accountable and be responsible with our children’s education funds.
Show us how this investment paid off Show us where in the budget these salaries are disclosed, don’t hide it I asked Mr. Cost where this line item was in the budget. He kindly responded to me. It is : Reporting department - Financial Services (300002-9990) on page 648. Here is the link if you want to look it up yourself: http://votejenfalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/General-Fund-Budget-Book-FY2013.pdf


This is hardly transparent: Page 648, item 3000002-9990 reads like this:
Financial Services (3000002-9990-NA) FY2012 actual $258,771 FY2013 proposed $245,687 FY2013 Supt. Recommended: $245,687 Description: Banking fees and services for central office and local schools (includes investment advisor)


It is my opinion that this budget should be transparent and honest. If it is a great idea then disclose it. If it isn’t a great idea then get rid of it. We are in a fiscal CRISIS. Our kids deserve good schools and good teachers. Our class sizes should NOT have increased by an avg. of 2 per class. The Chamber Salary could put 2 or 3 teachers back in the classroom. Look at the budget … there are plenty of places to choose our kids over bureaucracy.

Give our kids the best schools in Georgia. Great Schools will attract many from other counties. People will move to Gwinnett in droves if we give our kids the education they deserve. Our empty homes will sell, our tax digest will increase and good things will follow.

0

Amy4OurKids 1 year, 8 months ago

continued from previous comment ... This is hardly transparent: Page 648, item 3000002-9990 reads like this:
Financial Services (3000002-9990-NA) FY2012 actual $258,771 FY2013 proposed $245,687 FY2013 Supt. Recommended: $245,687 Description: Banking fees and services for central office and local schools (includes investment advisor)


It is my opinion that this budget should be transparent and honest. If it is a great idea then disclose it. If it isn’t a great idea then get rid of it. We are in a fiscal CRISIS. Our kids deserve good schools and good teachers. Our class sizes should NOT have increased by an avg. of 2 per class. The Chamber Salary could put 2 or 3 teachers back in the classroom. Look at the budget … there are plenty of places to choose our kids over bureaucracy.

Give our kids the best schools in Georgia. Great Schools will attract many from other counties. People will move to Gwinnett in droves if we give our kids the education they deserve. Our empty homes will sell, our tax digest will increase and good things will follow.

0

Sign in to comment