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Vote ‘Yes’ Tuesday for BOE's SPLOST

The word “taxes” certainly is not one that people want to hear.
Admittedly, with some taxes you are required to pay it may take a GPS, a divining rod, and the insight of a mythological demigod to find out where those dollars and cents are going. If you were to ask your state or federal lawmaker exactly how your taxes fund various projects, be prepared for a verbal tap dance with snippets of the truth and a lot of vagueness in reality.
However, if there were a tax that has a proven track record of success and the money stays within your community, wouldn’t your mind be more at ease?
Screven County has such a tax.
For the last 14 years, the county’s school system has received one penny on the dollar through a Special Local Option Sales Tax, or commonly known as SPLOST. On March 15, people – if they haven’t done so already through advanced voting – have the opportunity to cast their ballots to keep the SPLOST machine rolling another five years.
A SPLOST places a penny tax on every dollar spent in Screven County and does not put the full tax burden on property owners.
We urge you to vote “Yes” for this SPLOST Tuesday for a multitude of reasons including the most important one – it works to benefit the youth of today and tomorrow.
The SPLOST affords Screven County – deemed by the federal government as poverty-stricken and disadvantaged – the chance to remain equals with school systems that have larger enrollments and are wealthy.
SPLOST dollars are very visible in the community. At the high school, you can see the track, baseball field and softball field. Nearby is the school board office. At the middle school, you can see the concession stand at the baseball/softball field. At the elementary school, you can see the entrance and exit lanes at the front of the school.
SPLOST also pays for advancements inside the school buildings too. That list includes renovations, technology upgrades, and system replacements.
The big item on what would be the school district’s fourth SPLOST is the heating and air conditioning system at the elementary school. The HVAC, as it is called, has been in the school for 23 years and it is barely chugging along. It recently has cost the school system $20,000 to keep it operational. That is $20,000 from the general funds that could be used for other expenditures.
Air control is paramount in the learning process. Children who feel uncomfortable because of the room temperatures run a greater risk of scoring lower grades. Students cannot concentrate if they are sweating or shivering.
If the HVAC system completely fails due to its old age, the August sun will be a scorcher outside, but it won’t be much cooler inside.
And if you think it is hot with no air conditioning during the summer months to begin a school year, just wait to see how hot the parents are when they find out their sons and daughters are sweltering in a classroom.
If the SPLOST were not to pass, it is expected your school board would have to make a drastic decision to remedy the problem. The board would have to raise the millage rate just to replace the HVAC unit at the elementary school.
The HVAC must be replaced.
With a projected cost of $1 million to install a new heating and air conditioning system at the school, the board most likely would have to increase their rate by three mills. At present, a mill generates approximately $330,000.
We probably don’t have to tell you because you are bright individuals that raising the millage rate means your property taxes will go up, but we want to make that completely clear.
Yes, of course, if a millage rate was proposed by the board, there – by law – would be public hearings on the hike. However, no matter how much ranting and raving members of the public do in those public meetings unless Warren Buffett or Oprah Winfrey is going to walk into the room a write out a check to the school district for a cool million, a hike in property taxes would be forthcoming.
All this can be avoided by voting “Yes” March 15 on the SPLOST that would fund the replacement of the elementary school’s HVAC and do much more. A new SPLOST that, if passed, would take effect July 1, 2012, also would fund the relocation of the maintenance and operations department to the old middle school campus which currently houses a building used for monthly Parent University sessions. Initially, the move from Millen Highway to Pine Street would cost money, but over time the location change would save money in diesel fuel usage and the potential sale of the former site would pump money back into the school system’s budget. The current Millen Highway site is in a prime location for a possible trucking company or some other business ventures with its easy access to U.S. Highway 301 and the nearby Screven County Industrial Park.
The SPLOST also would provide upgrades to the auditorium at the high school. Built in the 1960s, the auditorium has received few improvements inside the facility that is used by the school system and the community. SPLOST dollars are to be used for new seating, lighting, carpeting, sound system and stage area.
The funds from SPLOST also would go toward the purchase of textbooks, school buses, computers and computer equipment, and other structures that may be of need between now and 2017.
While it definitely is not advisable to fall further and further behind in technology and new construction, subject textbook adoptions come in cycles and typically cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. As for school buses, the state annually funds about enough money to buy one $83,000 school bus. Screven County has 37 bus routes.
Textbooks and school buses are essential parts of the educational process. Without SPLOST, the money for those two items would be taken out of the school system’s general fund. With a limited supply of available money in that kitty, either the school board would have to raise the millage or cut an already bare-boned budget.
Unfortunately, the state does not allow SPLOST money to be used to pay teachers, who are the greatest asset to our school system. But SPLOST, by its financing of many projects, could free up local budget funds that can used toward teacher salaries.
Taxes is an ugly, ugly word. We know that. You know that.
However, a SPLOST is the fairest tax to do what is in the best interest of the children of our county.
For the last 14 years, the citizens of Screven County and visitors to our county have paid a tax that is a penny on the dollar. Those pennies have greatly benefitted this community for longer than this year’s high school seniors have been in enrolled in the school district.
A “Yes” vote Tuesday is not a vote for a new tax, but rather for a continuation of an existing one. Let’s keep a good thing going.