|School board puts ELOST vote on Nov. 8 ballot|
|Written by Mike Sprayberry|
|Wednesday, 23 March 2011|
Oconee County voters will soon decide whether or not to continue with the fourth phase of the education special purpose local option sales tax. The Board of Education unanimously agreed to put a referendum on the tax (used to fund construction and technology for schools) on the ballot for the November 8 election.
The projects currently on the list for funding by ELOST IV are prioritized into two tiers.
According to Mark Channell, Oconee County Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Student Services, Tier 1 projects are “the most crucial for students” and work on Tier 2 projects would start if there is money left over after Tier 1 projects are funded.
Tier 1 projects include major technology upgrades, Colham Ferry Elementary School upgrades, construction of a North Oconee High School field house, concessions and restroom as well as a major renovation to Oconee County High School.
Tier 2 projects include system-wide projects such as resurfacing, maintenance and paving, some additional classrooms at the middle schools, HVAC replacements at several schools and new roofs for the Oconee County Middle School gym and Oconee County Primary School.
Channell also explained that the referendum would be to continue the current ELOST program and would not impose a new sales tax beyond those in place currently. Oconee County Board of Education Chairman David Weeks explained the Board’s action and why he is in favor of continuing the ELOST.
“The current SPLOST is going to run out in 2012, so we wanted to go ahead and get it on the ballot this year so we can make sure we plan accordingly. (The list includes) upgrades to Colham Ferry Elementary School and Oconee County High School. Oconee County High School is going to be 20 years old, and they both need renovations.
“Making sure the academic buildings are up to par and our quality of education is really what SPLOST projects are about. We have also invested a lot of money in technology, so maintaining and upgrading the technology we have in the system is also important.”
According to Weeks, funding projects through ELOST offers other advantages to the county.
“I’m hoping this passes because if it doesn’t, it changes the way we go about business. The SPLOST referendum is good for Oconee County because it’s not just taxing the citizens of Oconee County, but it’s also taxing the people that come to shop and eat here.
“If we don’t have the SPLOST funding, all building, technology upgrades and building improvements would have to stop. There wouldn’t be any money in the general budget for those things. The general budget mainly pays for staff.”
Other members of the Board of Education also expressed support for the ELOST referendum. Mike Hunter described it as a source of local funding that prevents higher property taxes while Mark Thomas explained how some of the upgrades would improve security.
“It would be another source of revenue for us that is not solely on the citizens of Oconee County,” Hunter said. “It allows us to renovate schools and provide technology upgrades that we otherwise might not be able to fund. Our only source of funding at the local level is through property taxes. We’d have to raise taxes or raise the millage rate to do these things if we didn’t have ELOST.”
“I do support it,” said board member Mark Thomas. “I feel like it’s another avenue to gain income for the school system. Any time you have security issues and building needs in schools, these are key factors that all of us need to be concerned about. We also have some technology upgrades that can be included in this.
“One example (of how ELOST can improve security) is at Colham Ferry. It is more of an open campus and we’re trying to close the campus in so you won’t have people coming up to the building without going through one checkpoint.”
For a detailed list of projects proposed for ELOST IV, visit www.oconee.k12.ga.us.
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 March 2011 )|
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