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Schools gear up for SPLOST vote
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This fall, voters across the county will be asked to make a decision on whether they want to continue paying the educational sales tax.

The measure will be on the ballot in November, after school officials unanimously approved a SPLOST resolution last week.

The resolution is set at a principal amount of $32.57 million and may not exceed $42.5 million, according to the resolution passed at the July 26 school board meeting.

"This is a penny sales tax. We’ve passed a resolution like it twice," said Dr. Sallie Brewer, superintendent for Bryan County Schools. The county’s current tax started in April 2003, and runs through March 2008.

"The November election will be to continue the March 2008 resolution for five additional years," Brewer said.

The board approved the new resolution to be imposed, levied, and collected as in previous years.

"The resolution is basically for facilities improvements," Brewer said. "Over the last several years, the state has withheld just under $5 million of money that we’ve earned. Without SPLOST, we would’ve had to cut out a lot of what we’re still able to offer. The resolution enables us, in approved areas, to continue providing for our schools."

Board of Education Chairman Eddie Warren said it’s vital for the community to recognize what the SPLOST resolution means to the school district.

"It’s very important for the public to understand. Over half that money comes from people traveling through the state, it doesn’t come from them," he said. "Our community is changing, and lifestyles are changing; families are more mobile now," he said.

"With the SPLOST resolution, it has been written in a way that makes it very flexible. If a need comes up that was unforeseen, then it’s made so that we can use SPLOST to try and meet those needs. It’s hard to predict five years out. We worked very diligently on our last resolution, and this is an extension of that."

"You never know, until the first few days of school, how it’s going to be. Once the campaign starts, board members cannot actually be out there pushing SPLOST, it has to be the community. We have some local residents who are a formal committee to make the public more aware of what’s happening with it. Without it, I think people don’t realize where our schools would be," he said.

The specific capital outlay projects to be funded through the new Educational Sales Tax include:

- Acquiring, constructing, and equipping new elementary, middle and/or high schools, including the

acquisition of necessary land;

- Adding to, remodeling, renovating, improving, and equipping existing educational building properties, and facilities, and acquiring property, both real and personal, and equipment necessary therefore;

- Acquiring school buses;

- Making instructional and administrative technology improvements; and

- Renovating, adding to, and improving athletic and administrative buildings and facilities.

The vote will take place on Nov. 6 as an added county election.

"The residents of Richmond Hill and Pembroke who will be involved with city elections will have to go to two different polling places," Probate Court Judge Sam Davis said.

"Georgia law is specific in city elections. Voters need to vote at their local locations," he said. "With both these elections falling on the same day, for SPLOST you’ll have to go and vote in county, and then go vote for city. It’s unfortunate that city residents are going to have to go to two sites."

In addition, Davis said because of the extra voting set-up, the county will need to lease more equipment to accommodate the SPLOST election.

Brewer said that this was the only opportunity the county really had to vote on the issue.

"We needed to do this in Nov. as far as voting before the ending of the current SPLOST. If we waited, the vote would’ve had to be in February and we wanted to do it more than a month in advance of SPLOST ending," she said.

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