On March 14, the Oconee County Board of Education approved November 8 as the election day for a referendum that would continue an Education Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST)-- a one-cent tax used to fund technology and capital projects that is set to expire in 2012.
The school board chose November because the state only gives the options of November or April for school systems to place this type of referendum on the ballot, Superintendent John Jackson explains in his weekly column, adding that by choosing the fall date, "much-needed projects" could be addressed sooner. The board hopes to take advantage of more favorable interest rates as well, he says.
Under the current ELOST, High Shoals Elementary was constructed, renovations took place at other facilities, such as Oconee County Elementary, and technology was added to many classrooms. Those are just a few of the examples that Jackson mentions.
Jackson says many people want to know what new projects will be tackled if the ELOST is renewed. While the Board of Education is still creating the list, he notes that renovations to Colham Ferry Elementary will surely be at the top.
"The planned renovations will not only modernize the facility but make it even safer for our students," he writes. "This project could start in the summer of 2012."
Oconee County High School is another priority, he says.
A complete list of finalized projects will be shared through meetings and publications, Jackson notes.
"The board and administration are planning for a healthy mix of bond-funded projects and pay-as-you-go projects that won’t start until sales tax proceeds are secured, thus limiting the amount of long-term debt the school district would carry," he writes.
If the ELOST renewal were not approved, the pace at which technology is integrated into the classroom would slow, projects in need of attention "would go undone" and the general budget would have added pressure to maintain and operate facilities, Jackson says.