Voters have lots of choices in this year's primary elections. Whether picking a Republican or Democrat ballot, they can choose from among multiple candidates for statewide offices from governor on down, along with a couple of local races on Republican ballots. Voters also face a list of non-binding straw-poll questions from either party.
There is one vitally important question all ballots have in common, and it's all the way at the end: The referendum for renewal of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or E-SPLOST.
Some of the choices in the elections are tough. This one isn't. Vote yes.
It's rare to see a program as forward-thinking as the one put before voters this year. Typically, SPLOST programs are a laundry list of capital projects placed before voters. The 1 percent tax brings in a predicted amount of money for a set period of time to pay for them.
Voters rarely disapprove of a SPLOST proposal, and it's easy to see why. The money comes from sales taxes, which are about the best form of taxation there is. And unlike the property tax, sales taxes also are paid by visitors to the county.
But in addition to the painless nature of the revenue collection, voters also are able to vote on specific projects. Because officials calling for the referendum have to spell out exactly what the tax will pay for, voters know what they're getting.
Voters who see the details of the five-year renewal of E-SPLOST will like it. Rather than just cobbling together a list of the needs of a school system growing by the equivalent student population of a new school every year, school officials have set up a remarkable plan that also helps position the system to more efficiently handle future growth.
Approval of the plan would allow the school system to tear down some of the county's oldest, smaller schools and replace them with larger, more efficient campuses. Especially appealing is the replacement of Columbia Middle School with a new campus closer to its population, with a building large enough to help relieve overcrowded Evans Middle.
The system would also build replacements for Evans and Martinez elementary schools large enough to absorb the population from Bel Air Elementary. That move alone signals greater efficiency for taxpayers by trimming administrative overhead from three schools to two.
A significant part of the legacy of former Columbia County School Superintendent John Pierce Blanchard was established in a far-reaching, countywide school construction program voters approved in 1956.
Some of the schools of that era are slated to be replaced in this proposal. It's a monumental achievement that those schools have served the county so well for more than 50 years - and this E-SPLOST proposal is a credit to his legacy.
Voters have a great many choices in this election, but none of them are as easy as the last one on the ballot: Vote yes to renew the education sales tax.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.