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Board discusses school bond vote

At a special called meeting Monday, July 6, members of the board of education discussed a proposed November school bond election and the $7.45 million in capital improvement projects it would fund. If voters approve, the bond would finance projects such as a ninth grade academy, stadium upgrades, a new track and field, tennis courts improvements, new middle school softball fields, paving at the high school and elementary school and 10 new buses at $100,000 each. ’One of the biggest items we need are 10 new school buses which will cost approximately $1 million,’ said school board chairman Ryan Edge. ‘We have not raised taxes for the past seven years even though we have lost money from the state each year. The E-SPLOST is as close to a fair tax as we can get, but it’s simply not enough to cover all the expenses.’ School board members discussed the system’s immediate needs and future needs, which could soon include a new elementary school. They talked about options for how the funds for those projects could be raised, with options including an increase in the school bond millage over the current levy which funds the existing bond debt to be paid in fully in February 2016. ’The current elementary school is at capacity and we should be preparing ourselves for another growth spurt,’ said financial director Ken Carter. ‘I think it’s prudent as a board to consider the mil increase impact of a future elementary school in conjunction with the projects currently under consideration.’ The immediate capital improvement projects proposed would cost a total of $7.45 million and would include $1.87 million for a new Ninth Grade Academy. Chairman Edge said there is no room to expand the high school outward and instead of adding a second floor to the high school, the academy would be placed in the old middle school building – saving about $4 million in construction costs. The $1.42 million in stadium improvements would include a new ticket booth with restrooms, a new press box and restrooms on both the home side and the visitors side, new stands that are ADA compliant on both the home and visitors sides as well as new water service connections. A new track and field facility would cost around $390,000 and would include replacing the existing track with new asphalt, adding a track drain and concrete header, a fence around the track and new rubber track option with lines which would allow for new field events such as the shot put, long jump and more. Resurfacing and striping the existing four tennis courts and adding new posts and nets would cost around $38,000. Adding a new softball facility at the middle school would cost $438,000 and include grading, storm drains, fencing, field construction, dugouts, lights, scoreboard and PA system. The proposed school bond vote has not yet been submitted and will be discussed at July and August school board meetings. Edge said he hopes illustrations of the projects will be available for open house nights at each school. School board members also discussed why Phase 2 projects from the E-SPLOST approved in 2012 were not completed. ’Some people didn’t understand why the E-SPLOST didn’t complete all the proposed projects,’ said Edge. ‘When we planned the projects, we decided we were going to take the up front portion and use that to tackle the most critical items at that time and let the revenue stream come in to complete more projects. But we have had stagnant collections, around $75,000 to $80,000 a month, and it has been enough to pay back the bond but not enough to tackle any of the Phase 2 projects.’

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