Bryan County Schools will ask voters March 21 to approve up to $100 million in bonds and renew a 1 percent E-SPLOST tax to pay for among other things a new high school in South Bryan County.
The Board of Education approved the vote at its meeting Thursday night after a lengthy discussion.
The current E-SPLOST, set to expire in 2018, brings in about $5 million annually over a five-year cycle. That money and school property taxes would be used to repay the bonds, which would be due over 25 years.
The bond money would provide the district money up front for projects, which includes a replacement for Richmond Hill High School.
“The feedback we’ve received from the community is that they are ready to invest in the future and the board of education is willing to do that,” Superintendent Paul Brooksher said. “This really is unprecedented.”
Brooksher said it is possible that the school millage rate — which has remained unchanged at 15.537 mills for several years — could increase at some point in order to meet bond payments. Attendees at two school forums in October expressed support for a millage increase, and school board members have said they have heard the same from constituents.
Brooksher said the district would like to have the new school open for the 2021-2022 school year. Pending the outcome of the March 21 vote, a new high school would take about four years to complete, beginning with site selection. Feedback has indicated that taxpayers want the new school to include a fine arts wing, a pool and top-notch athletic facilities. Brooksher in the past said such a complex would require about 100 acres.
The bond referendum will also include language to allow the district to spend money on a new elementary school and middle school. The new high school will be built for about 3,000 students. The board has previously discussed converting the current high school to a middle school once a new high school is complete due to overcrowding at Richmond Hill Middle School.
The district anticipates growing by about 3,500 students over the next decade, with about 3,300 of those students being added to the Richmond Hill area. As Brooksher has said in the past, “Two high schools are in South Bryan County’s future, it’s just a matter of when.”