In a special called meeting Monday morning, the Effingham County Board of Education approved a $76 million E-SPLOST IV renewal referendum to be on the ballot in November.
Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill that went in to effect July 1 that stipulated a 90-day advertisement period in legal organs prior to elections, rather than the 60 days they were expecting.
“There is some talk that they’re going to allow systems to go with the old rule, but we just weren’t sure,” said Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “We didn’t want to take a chance with the new law going into effect. No one knew about it because it was in a bigger bill; it was just three sentences stuck in the middle of that bill that said we had to do that. So we wanted to make sure that we were abiding by what new rules were, so that’s why we had to make sure we had it by today.”
With the current education special purpose local option sales tax running up next year, the BoE office thought it would be best to go ahead and get it on the ballot this year, in case it did not pass to allot enough time to take it to the public once more.
Said Shearouse: “Basically we looked at what projects we had on the E-SPLOST, what things we needed to do, the new schools and that kind of thing, and then went back and funded those and saw what the funding level would be, and it was a little over $76 million.”
E-SPLOST III was set at $50 million and has collected about $34 million thus far. Shearouse noted that although they have seen E-SPLOST revenue drop in recent months, they are pretty much on target.
E-SPLOST dollars have helped fund facilities such as the new Career Academy and the new Effingham County Middle School as well as being the sole fund for maintaining buses.
Two big ticket items in the new E-SPLOST that were included in the school board’s five-year plan are an elementary-middle school on Fort Howard Road and a new high school, possibly adjacent to Ebenezer Elementary and Middle. Both of these facilities would depend on financing and population growth.
Any big renovations or updating needed in the facilities such as roofing and air conditioning units are paid for with E-SPLOST. Nearly all of the technology and the interactive classrooms in the system are funded from the one-cent sales tax.
“That’s why its so important that we have the money to keep our schools where they are as far as where they are in very good shape and also plan for new buildings that may be coming along,” Shearouse said.
At the Monday meeting, Nina Dasher asked the board members to consider making playgrounds more accessible to special needs students.
“Actually, we do have playgrounds listed in the resolution,” Shearouse said. “Any item that a board member brings to us and we like for us to take a look at, we’ll certainly take a look at it, but it all depends on how the funding is.”
All in all, the new E-SPLOST is simply a continuation of the current tax — only this time they are high-balling their project list in the event that they collect enough to take care of their priority needs.
“We felt like there was no harm in putting more than what you may actually receive, especially if they’re worthwhile projects like what we have listed,” Shearouse said. “So if you don’t collect that much, then you just don’t collect that much; but, of course, if you do collect that much, then you get to spend it on the projects that you’ve designated.”