In these times of economic troubles and cutbacks in governmental services, one of the best deals Columbia County citizens have going for them is our school system.
Thanks to the high quality of our schools, which continues to bring new families into our county, we have not felt the affects of the recession as much as other areas of the country. The construction of new subdivisions (especially in the western and northern areas of the county) continues to bring, on the average, 500 new students each year into our school system.
The growth rate, along with age deterioration and obsolescence of four of our schools that we constructed in the 1950s, create the need for classroom additions to existing schools, construction of new schools, and replacement of old school facilities.
Failure to meet these needs in a timely manner can only lead to a decline in the quality of our schools and educational services to our students.
Our local board of education and the Georgia State Board of Education have jointly developed and approved a plan to address these needs during the next 10 years.
Implementation of this plan will earn our school system an entitlement in state capital outlay funds that will cover 85 percent of the cost of approved projects. The use of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) will not only provide funds for our 15 percent of the cost, it will also allow implementation of the plan in a timely manner before the needs become so critical we will be unable to catch up.
E-SPLOST funds will also allow the school system to pay off any and all bonded indebtedness without having to levy any property taxes for construction projects.
The current E-SPLOST in Columbia County will expire in 2012. On July 20, 2010, we will have the opportunity to renew the current sales tax rate for another five years. A "yes" vote to renew E-SPLOST will not increase your taxes in any way, and will help to keep our school system as one of the best in the nation.
I urge all citizens of Columbia County to vote, and to vote "yes" for E-SPLOST July 20.
Donald D. Thornhill
(Don D. Thornhill, a former Columbia County school superintendent, is a member of the Committee for Columbia County Schools.)
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