Barring an increase in state funding or a substantial growth in 1-cent sales tax revenues, the Columbia County school board might consider a temporary property tax increase to pay for school construction.
Most of the school system's sales tax income is earmarked to pay off bonds, and state dollars cover only a fraction needed to build new schools, Columbia County school Superintendent Tommy Price told board members in a Tuesday meeting.
Price proposed a 1-mill tax increase for three years, with the extra revenue marked for school construction.
Several construction projects are planned during the next seven years, including two new elementary schools, two new middle schools, a new high school and building additions to Lewiston and River Ridge elementary schools - totaling about $90.2 million.
The school system, which has about 21,000 pupils, is using 94 portable classrooms to meet the enrollment demand, according to board of education figures.
"Roughly 880 kids are inadequately housed," Price said.
As enrollment continues to grow, the board's current 17.18 tax millage won't be enough to meet construction demands, Price said.
"We've got to come up with a funding option," he said.
"There are so many unknowns out there. All we can do is speculate as best we can based on current data."
In six weeks, state education officials will revise the school system's capital outlay plan, which could mean more money for construction. Also, future retail and industry growth could produce more 1-cent sales tax funds, Price said.
If a tax increase is needed, board Chairwoman Regina Buccafusco said, the public would support the decision: "Nobody wants to talk about a tax increase, but if we go to the voters and tell them it's limited to three years and earmarked for building schools, it would help them understand."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.