The Cobb Education SPLOST will continue through 2018.
Cobb voters on Tuesday approved a referendum that would continue collecting the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for school construction and maintenance projects for another five-year period.
With all 153 precincts reporting, a total of 23,248 votes were cast in favor of the SPLOST extension, or 57.3 percent. There were 17,317 votes against, or 42.7 percent, according to figures reported by the Georgia Secretary of State.
"Schools win, kids win, economic development wins, property values win. It's a shared thing," said Kennesaw businessman John Loud, a co-founder of the United 4 Kids Campaign that formed to push for SPLOST passage.
He was speaking at a pro-SPLOST gathering at Willie Rae's restaurant on the Marietta Square that included superintendents from both school districts, school board members, top school administrators and Cobb business leaders.
Among the main projects are new classroom and fine arts buildings and a new gym at Walton High School, a reconstruction of Osborne High School, two unspecified Cobb elementary replacement schools, an East Cobb middle school replacement and a Cobb career academy.
Marietta schools will be able to pay off debt from a previous bond issue and pay for new renovation projects and technology upgrades.
Given the anti-SPLOST sentiment in Cobb in recent years, a close vote was projected.
Loud, who owns a home alarm system company, teamed with fellow Kennesaw businessman Jay Cunningham of Superior Plumbing to speak before business and civic groups and place television ads on various Atlanta television outlets.
"I feel very good about it," said a relieved Cobb school board member Scott Sweeney, who was at the Willie Rae's event. "I've been cautiously optimistic about this whole process because I had a belief that the citizens of Cobb County would pass this initiative."
As it has done in previous Cobb government SPLOST ballot measures, the Cobb Taxpayers Association came out against the Ed SPLOST IV, saying items like new gymnasiums and theaters were unnecessary.
They also balked at the $30 million price tag and the undetermined location for a career academy that would be aimed at non-college-bound students.
At a gathering at Williamson Bros. BBQ in Marietta, CTA president Lance Lamberton said despite the results, that the margin was closer than previous Cobb Education SPLOST votes.
Cobb voters first passed an education SPLOST in 1998, and have followed up with two more extensions, including 2008 with the support of 60 percent of voters.
"When you consider what we were up against, the resources that were used to pass this, it was encouraging," he said. "If we had sat on our hands and did nothing, the vote would have not been different. But we reached voters and raised awareness."
Lamberton's group made two robocalls over the weekend, including one to seniors warning them to "hold on to their wallets" because SPLOST supporters would attempt to end the school property tax exemption for homeowners over 62 if the referendum failed.
"They look upon us as sheep to be slaughtered," Lamberton says in the 30-second call. "So the question is: Are we going to let them? Tell them no way."
Loud took exception to the strong language and said his group has never suggested touching the senior property tax exemption.
Lamberton said his group will continue to fight against future SPLOST extensions, mainly by approaching legislators on measures including the fractional SPLOST, which would permit collection of less than a penny in sales tax.
"The only way we can change the results is if we change the way the game is played," he said.