A handful of supportive parents gathered Friday evening in the Fulton Middle School library to learn more about the upcoming April bond issue.
The forum, the first of six scheduled over the next month, was focused on informing the public on Proposition S, which would allow Fulton Public Schools to borrow $27.5 million to fund projects across the district.
The first point Superintendent Jacque Cowherd emphasized was financial in nature — if passed, the bond issue will not increase taxes.
"We refer to this whole issue as a zero tax increase, which refers to the debt service levy, because we have managed that levy the last couple of years at a stable level that we've paid down debt to the point that we can incur more debt at the same rate," Cowherd said. "It does extend debt 14 years, but it's at the same rate that you're paying on your debt service levy."
As Cowherd's presentation progressed, the forum evolved into a discussion, with FPS Board of Education member Leah Baker jumping in with additional explanations and attendees Scott and Amy Lowe adding their own questions and comments.
"One of the questions that's popped up on Facebook this week was, 'Why can't you just chop off operational expenses and then put that in capital?'" Scott Lowe said. "Obviously, there's an order of magnitude issue there, but on a smaller scale, can you do that?"
Cowherd said while money could occasionaly be transferred from an operational budget to a capital budget, but that would not be feasible for a project of this magnitude.
"The frustrating part about this stuff — it's needed, but nobody sees it, nobody cares as long as the light turns on," Cowherd said, while explaining electrical upgrades.
"It's not sexy," Baker added.
"I thought the network cabinets were sexy," Scott Lowe joked, referring to the district's plan to update information technology security.
The Lowes were also looking for information to help others understand the bond issue.
"You know, obviously anytime you talk about tax, people get some sort of a visceral response," Scott Lowe said after the forum. "So, we're just trying to make sure people have factual information and try to gently correct misinformation that might exist on social media."
The Lowes attended previous forums held when the district was seeking community input on potential projects and said they might attend future forums as well. In addition to having two children at Fulton High School, Amy Lowe worked at Bartley Elementary for 81/2 years.
"There's a lot of things on those lists that obviously have been long-term issues," she said. "Having dealt with them personally as a staff member is a different ball of wax than dealing with them as a parent, but from both sides, I feel that all of these projects are needed. If we had all the money in the world, it'd be great to everything on the wish list, but I think the board has done a great job paring it down to some very necessity items."
On list of slated projects are 12 new kindergarten classrooms, eight middle school classrooms and a new high school competition gym, as well as upgrades to information technology, electrical systems, bathrooms, the high school health office and secure entrances.
"Our kids are already getting really excited," Baker said. "I've gotten some letters from some third-graders at Bush that are saying, 'We can't wait until the bond passes.'"
Future forums will be held at each Fulton school:
Fulton Early Childhood Center, 6 p.m. Monday
Bartley Elementary School, 6 p.m. Feb. 18
Fulton High School, 6 p.m. Feb. 20
Bush Elementary School, 6 p.m. Feb. 27
McIntire Elementary School, 6 p.m. March 4