ATLANTA -- Four years after voters rejected a $150 million school bond proposal, the Atlanta Board of Education has set a $94 million request for the city's Dec. 1 ballot.
School Superientendent Lester W. Butts said the board's decision Monday night followed advice from engineers and architects that all 102 city school buildings need extensive renovation.
"With voter approval of the sale of bonds, it will be possible to house all of our children in a quality environment that is conducive to learning," Mr. Butts said, noting that about half the school system's buildings are more than 50 years old.
James E. Johnson, associate superintendent for administrative services, said the borrowing would help fund a five-year capital program of structural repairs estimated to cost $162.8 million.
Bond proceeds, he said, would be used to install air-conditioning, renovate cafeterias, and repair boilers, roffing, electric systems, and plumbing. Officials have not allocated money for these jobs in fiscal 1993 because they are counting on passage of the bond issue, he added.
The school board hopes to avoid repeating the 1988 referendum defeat with an aggressive public relations campaign focusing on the need to overhaul the aging facilities. The board will also make a special effort, Mr. Johnson said, to find out what specific repairs citizens would like to see.
"We're asking each school to discuss with the community around it what building needs should be addressed," he said. "Our feeling is that through local particpation and education, we gt the message through and win the referendum."
In order to fund the borrowing, the school system would be required to raise its share of property tax collections to 1.99 mills from .79 mills, Mr. Johnson said. for the owner of a $100,000 house, this would result in a $48 increase in property taxes.
In May 1988, Atlanta voters crushed all six parts of a $ 308 million bond package that included $150 million of debt for teh Atlanta Board of Education and five separate city of Atlanta borrowings that totaled $158 million.
The rejection of the school board's request by a 61.5% margin was attributed to the large overall size of the referendum and to voter backlash against a reassessment of property values in the Atlanta area that spring. Officials also said the low 12% voter turnout contributed to the defeat.
Micheal Bell, Atlanta's chief financial officer, said the city has no plans to add any bond authorization requiests of its own to the school board's Dec. 1 referendum.
"It's a tough climate out there to get a referendum passed," he said. "I wish the school board well."