For Columbia County residents, July 1 will likely come and go with little fanfare. That will be the day when the Columbia County School System's second round of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax kicks in.
When voters approved the SPLOST referendum last March, they also gave the school system the go-ahead to issue $16 million in bonds to pay for priority projects until the SPLOST money started rolling in. Voters can already see the results: a new elementary school is underway on Hereford Farm Road, Grovetown Middle School has about 6 months to go before it opens and new classrooms are being added to Greenbrier, Lakeside and Evans high schools this summer.
Also at the top of the priority list is improving computer technology in schools, replacing classroom chalkboards for white boards, purchasing new buses and improving school facilities.
But the majority of the SPLOST collection is going to pay off debt. When voters approved the first one cent sales tax in 1997, they decided to satisfy debt with the penny tax, rather than have the system levy property taxes for this purpose.
"The majority of the money will go toward debt," said Columbia County School System Controller Pat Sullivan. "We'll have to see how far we can stretch the difference. It's going to take every month on average $760,000 to go toward debt. We've been hitting around $825,000 to $875,000 a month, but we also anticipate growth over the next five years."
Though Columbia County's SPLOST begins in July, the county won't receive its first check until September, she said. The tax, which will be in place until 2007, by conservative estimates is expected to raise about $60 million.
Columbia County School System's top priorities for SPLOST funds:
Grovetown Middle School - $8.3 million
New Elementary School - $5.9 million
Classroom additions at Evans High School- $2.2 million; Lakeside High School - $2.3 million; and Greenbrier High School - $1.6 million.
Retirement of previously incurred general obligation debt - $28 million.
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