Editor, Those of you familiar with the Long County School System are aware of the student growth and financial struggles faced by our system for many years. We are a low-wealth system, ranked 171st out of 180 school systems. Our students and teachers presently occupy many classrooms built in 1951 or earlier. The hardships we have faced have been many, but with the dedication of previous and present boards, superintendents, administrators, teachers and staff, we have survived.
At no other time in the history of our county and its educational system have we been afforded the opportunity that currently is before us. Due to our inadequate facilities and low-wealth status, the school system qualifies for $25,700,000 in money from the state. This is a one-time opportunity for Long County and our school system.
On the Nov. 4 ballot, under “Special election: Long County Board of Education,” voters will have a chance to weigh in on this measure. If they approve the bond referendum, the local millage rate would increase by 1.6 mils, and the money would be used to repay the debt. Calculations for the tax increase are $63.96 per year or $5.33 per month for property valued at $100,000. All taxes can be calculated from this formula based on the value of property. Senior citizens with double tax exemptions would pay less, as would landowners who have their land in a covenant.
As the tax digest increases each year, this cost would decrease. When the ESPLOST bond debt on the new high school is paid off, the ESPLOST funds then would be available to pay this new bond debt.
This bond referendum would provide matching funds to build a new school to house third through eighth grades, provide maintenance for buses and facilities, demolish subpar and aging structures, and improve existing facilities. It also would cover our facility needs for many years to come.
The site proposed for the new school, between Highway 84 and Elim Road, would resolve traffic concerns. A road connecting Highway 84 and Elim Road for two entrance/exit locations would let buses enter school property and eliminate traffic on Elim Road and at the traffic light. Buses from all other points would use the Highway 84 entrance/exit.
There are no other options to receive this amount of money from the state. With continued growth, our only option in the near future would be to house our students in portable buildings at the expense of local taxpayers. Additionally, maintaining these older buildings and replacing equipment would cause unavoidable tax increases.
Please attend a townhall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, in the Long County High School cafeteria, sponsored by the Long County Chamber of Commerce, for more information about this exciting opportunity for Long County students.
— Janet M. Watford
Long County Board of Education chairwoman