McDuffie County residents will have the opportunity to make a choice that will enable their children to have a new junior high school, renovate existing school facilities, and make the Bulldogs' Brickyard the true place of pride that it is.
At their June meeting, school board members passed a resolution to present a one-cent sales and use tax before the voters of the county. The proposed sales tax will not be an additional tax, but will be a continuation of the penny tax that expires in December. A special election will be held at all McDuffie voting precincts on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
Officials prefer implementing Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes - an extra penny on all purchases - because it spreads the tax burden to non-residents as well as property owners. SPLOSTs can provide the equivalent of five to 10 mills annually of property taxes.
For example, McDuffie County has been using SPLOST proceeds for years to fund water and sewage projects among other work, while the school system has paid for educational projects.
The next SPLOST
Under their proposal for the next SPLOST, the school board can collect a maximum of $23 million, up from the previous SPLOST cap of $16 million. The new proposal also includes the addition of $12 million in bonds, which will allow the projects to be done up front, eliminating construction inflation. The bonds will be paid back using SPLOST.
"Bonds and SPLOST work good here, because you have the exits to the interstate, so you bring in more outside sales than a lot of counties I work with," said Frank King, the education specialist for Morgan Keegan - a consultant company that advised the school board during the SPLOST planning process.
Projects that will be covered by the proposed SPLOST and bonds include:
building and equipping a new Norris Elementary school
completing a new eighth and ninth grade school, including necessary furnishings, fixtures and equipment
renovating, extending, repairing and equipping existing school district facilities to include roof repairs and stadium renovation
acquiring and installing system wide instructional and administrative technology, safety and security equipment
acquisition of school buses and transportation equipment
acquisition of music, vocational and athletic equipment
acquiring any necessary property.
If voters do not approve the next round of SPLOST collections, such projects would have to be funded by property taxes.
But, Superintendent Mark Petersen said "we haven't even thought about that, we don't have any anticipation of it not passing."
In a phone interview, Dr. Petersen said he has already sent out e-mails about putting together a committee to discuss the Brickyard renovations. He said they want to begin getting ideas on exactly what type of things need to be done, "because we are only going to have X- number of dollars."
Dr. Petersen estimates there will be 15 to 18 people on the committee, and they will be looking at ideas for the bleachers, concession stand, bathrooms and the field.
"But none of (these renovations are) going to happen until SPLOST passes and football season is over," he said.
Dr. Petersen said money hasn't been put into the Brickyard in many years, and the board will have to consider ideas carefully because of all the history and tradition involved.
"We want to make it right," the Superintendent said. "What other kind of activities can you have where it doesn't matter if you're black or white, rich or poor, you come together for a common cause? And we need to have more of those kinds of activities going on. So we will start with a committee ... and I use the word 'we' because this is a community project."
Dr. Petersen said they hope to have the renovations completed for the 2007-08 football season, but that depends on the type of decisions that will be made by the committee.
The election will be held from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 19. The last day to register to vote in this election is through 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14.