The future growth of numerous Columbia County schools might rest with voters on Tuesday.
Along with candidates for political office, listed on the primary ballot will be a question asking voters to renew a 1 percent sales tax for education and approve a $45 million bond referendum.
Sales tax dollars can be used only for capital improvements, such as new construction, some remodeling efforts or purchasing items such as school buses and computers.
School officials are projecting to raise as much as $148.6 million through the penny tax.
Rather than create new schools as previous sales tax packages have done, the one proposed for 2012-17 will upgrade and rebuild existing schools.
The plan calls for building larger versions of Columbia Middle, Evans Elementary, Martinez Elementary and the system's alternative school in Grovetown to meet the demands of the growing school system.
Much of the money from the bond referendum, which would be repaid with sales tax proceeds, would be used to pay for construction of a new Columbia Middle School.
The school would be relocated between Hereford Farm and Belair roads on Columbia Road, and its capacity would be increased from 38 classrooms to 51. The $20 million school could hold as many as 1,100 pupils and relieve overcrowding at Evans Middle.
Once the new school opens in 2012, the former site would be used to expand the system's Nutrition and Transportation departments. Its gym would be used as a warehouse.
Once Evans and Martinez elementary schools open sometime between 2012 and 2014, Bel Air Elementary would be shut down. Those pupils would be split between the larger Evans and Martinez schools.
The Bel Air property, which is on a growing commercial corridor on North Belair Road, would be sold.
The new schools would cost up to $12.5 million to build.
Also included in the first building phase of the sales tax proposal is a new alternative school at its site in Grovetown.
The $2.5 million project would allow for 24 classrooms, many of which also would be used for vocational studies with students attending from all area high schools. That location would give vocational students easy access to an Augusta Technical College campus on Horizon South Parkway.
The second construction phase of the project would include rebuilding North Columbia and North Harlem elementary schools at about $10.5 million each.
Phase three calls for the construction of a new Harlem Middle at $20 million and South Columbia Elementary at $10.5 million.
Projects also likely to be included in the sales tax referendum are buying buses, upgrading auditoriums, upgrading athletic facilities, roofing projects and paying off about $37 million in debt.
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