With the current special purpose local option sales tax coming to an end, Dr. Slade Helmly presented the school board a draft of plans for the renewed SPLOST IV and recommended a referendum for its approval be placed on the November ballot.
While the SPLOST fund allotments are still malleable, the draft recommended basic building and grounds maintenance and renovation for all of the schools as well as upgrades for buses and technology. It also included $15 million to be used for the new K-8 school and $15 million for costs for an Ebenezer High School, which both facilities were included in the board’s recently approved five-year plan.
In light of a third high school, the draft also recommended using SPLOST funds for a centralized football stadium.
Superintendent Randy Shearouse emphasized the graduated importance of SPLOST funds to the school system since its inception and particularly during economic downturns and tight budget constrictions.
“(SPLOST has) really been something that has helped save us in difficult times when you think about buying textbooks and technology and buses,” he said. “Those are certainly items that we can spend that at one time technology was provided for by the state. That was taken away. Buses used to be provided for by the state. And locally, we’ve had to pick up those costs because of the state taking more and more money away from those areas.
“So SPLOST is important for our system and this list, of course will change quite a bit. Some items will change, and there’s no guarantee, of course, after we adopt the things we want to look at that they will be accomplished in the next five years. But this list helps us stay on track as far as what we have to do, where we want to do it and what needs to be done throughout the county,”
Helmly explained that in light of the current SPLOST ending in 2011, having the new SPLOST funding mapped out and voted on in November would give enough time for adjustments if the referendum doesn’t pass this year. If that were to happen, they would be required to wait another calendar year before putting an adjusted referendum on the ballot.
“I will also point out that another blessing of this tax is that when you really look at what it does in this school system, when you compare to your millage rate, you’re talking about five or six mills a year that this one penny raises that would have to come from somewhere,” Helmly said.