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School board considers coupling bonds with sales tax dollars for projects

The McDuffie County Board of Education is discussing funding options for big building projects including the new junior high school, a new Norris Elementary and renovating The Brickyard.

In a special called meeting on Friday, March 31, board members and administrators met with Thomson Mayor Bob Knox, and Frank King, education specialist, and Larry Knox, investment banker, with Morgan Keegan and Company brokerage firm.

"I'm a school person at heart. I was a superintendent for 21 years. I understand school systems. That's why they've got me doing this," Mr. King said. "...Y'all have got a pretty good school system, from the outside looking in. ...Your facilities look like some of the best in the country."

Mr. King compared the income and advantages of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes and bonds for the members at the meeting. Mr. King said the main advantage of bonds is it will allow all the projects to be done up front, eliminating the costs of construction inflation. The bonds will be paid back using SPLOST, so no additional taxes will be needed. If SPLOST without bonds are used, then penny-tax collections could not begin until 2009-2010, and construction would be delayed until then. Also, having the money all up front would eliminate prioritizing projects.

Bonds and SPLOST would work well in Thomson, Mr. King said, because of the exits on the interstate. He said McDuffie brings in more money in sales tax than a lot of other counties he's worked with. Mr. King said he has had SPLOST approvals for school systems in 79 counties in the last five years.

"When you say é─˛bond' to me, I think the homeowner would come out on the short end of the deal. But that was the old days. I understand now this makes perfect sense with SPLOST," said Virginia Bradshaw, board member representing District 5.

Mayor Knox encouraged the school board to consider bonds, saying that the City/County Water and Sewerage Department is using them already to pay for projects.

"I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but if we didn't have the interstate, super Wal-Mart, and people coming in to work from out of town, we wouldn't have what we do... We don't have our backs to the wall... We are in a great situation," the Mayor said.

Mrs. Bradshaw said the options are still in the discussion and research stages. The board will hold "several more meetings" before a vote is made.

Web posted on Wednesday, April 5, 2006

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