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ESPLOST to improve facilities

Pike County voters will decide whether to continue the county’s sixth ESPLOST on in the Nov. 2 election. The school system said the funding would improve the school’s auditorium, upgrade the middle school HVAC, provide kitchen equipment where needed as well as paving and resurfacing, new buses, an elementary school roof, land for a future campus, floors, bleachers, goals and scoreboards for the high school gym, fieldhouse and weight room improvements, tennis courts and softball and baseball bleachers. 

“The Education SPLOST is not a property tax. It provides a method of funding the cost of educational improvements and retires bond debt to which everyone, not just property owners, contributes,” said superintendent Dr. Michael Duncan. “Additionally, the sales tax is paid by everyone who shops or stays in Pike County, including visitors.” 

The ESPLOST extension would be for five years or $14.6 million, whichever comes first. An Education Special Purpose Location Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) allows local school districts the option to ask voters to continue the one penny sales tax to help fund school improvements. It can be used to pay for capital projects or to retire debt, but cannot be used to pay operating expenses, such as salaries. ESPLOSTs are enacted by a ballot referendum. According to the school system, ESPLOST funds have been used recently to purchase new computer hardware, new HVAC systems at the primary school, elementary school and high school and new roofs were installed at the high school and primary school. 

“Without the extension of the current ESPLOST, most of the proposed projects could not be accomplished without property tax increases,” said Dr. Duncan. “According to the School District’s Accrediting Agency, COGNIA, we need to make improvements to facilities and upgrade technology resources. COGNIA will return in March of 2022 to determine if the school district is making progress. Furthermore, ESPLOST funding is critical for the school district to respond to the increase in student enrollment, modernize HVAC systems and the bus fleets as well as updating and modernizing a wide range of areas including the kitchens, restrooms and athletic facilities. Pirate Nation has supported education for many years, passing six ESPLOST referendums. Passage of this ESPLOST would be a strong demonstration of the communities’ continued support for its school children.”

Election Day is Nov. 2 Advanced in person voting will begin Tuesday, Oct. 12 due to the state holiday Oct. 11 and will run through Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Two Saturday voting opportunities will be offered, including Oct. 16 and 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Board of Elections office at 81 Jackson Street in Zebulon. The last day for residents to register and be able to vote in the November election is Oct. 4. All precincts will be open on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the tallying of votes will be done at the Board of Elections in Zebulon.

“The ESPLOST extension helps take pressure off property taxes. Without ESPLOST, the funds would be raised through property taxes to complete required projects such as heating and cooling systems. Additionally, the children are not the only ones who benefit from good schools. The social and economic strength of a community is influenced by the school system. Good schools mean strong property values, well-prepared citizens, a thriving labor market, and an inviting atmosphere for both living and working. One of the key questions asked by industrial/commercial or residential prospects looking to move into a community is, ‘What is the quality of the schools?’ The passage of previous ESPLOSTs has enabled Pike County to have more modern school facilities and equipment without creating a burden on property taxpayers. For this reason, it would be wise for to consider ESPLOST renewal in years to come.”

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