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ESPLOST up for vote on Tuesday

Voters will head to the polls Tuesday, Sept. 19 to continue McDuffie County School System's quest of going from good to great. The ballot will include the Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and a representative for the District 4 seat on the Board of Education.

The tax, which is a one-cent sales tax, can be levied upon the approval of voters and used to help pay for various projects. ESPLOST IV will not be an additional tax, but is an extension of the ESPLOST III which expires at the end of this year. ESPLOST IV will be limited at $23 million or five years, whichever comes first.

The renewed ESPLOST (IV) does not begin until the current ESPLOST (III) ends. The benefits of the sales tax are no increased taxes for property owners, and the tax is paid by everyone, including visitors, who shop in McDuffie County.

"I don't mean to beat a dead horse," Thomson Mayor Bob Knox said in a special meeting last March. "But if we didn't have the interstate, Super Wal-Mart, and people coming in from out of town to work, we wouldn't have what we do."

Voters will notice a difference in the ESPLOST IV ballot from their previous ones. The renewed tax plan includes the addition of bonds. In coupling the sale of bonds with the tax, the school system will have the advantage of allowing projects to be done up front, eliminating the cost of construction inflation. The bonds will be paid back using ESPLOST, so no additional taxes will be needed.

If ESPLOST without bonds are used, then penny-tax receipts could not begin for three to four years, and projects would be delayed until that time. Also, having all the money up front eliminates prioritizing projects.

Educational projects that were funded by ESPLOST III include new classrooms in the elementary schools, new restrooms at the middle school, and a new physical education facility and a cannery for the high school.

"Every school received something from ESPLOST III," said Dr. Jim Franklin, the assistant superintendent of administrative services.

Projects to be completed by ESPLOST IV include a new junior high school on White Oak Road, a new Norris Elementary School building, pitched roofs on all schools with a flat roof, safety and security items, vocational/music/athletic equipment, technology equipment, school buses, Brickyard stadium improvements, student furniture and general repairs on existing buildings.

ESPLOST IV is different from the McDuffie County Commissioners' SPLOST, which funds county projects such as sewerage and paving. State laws prohibit using ESPLOST revenue for salaries or instructional materials. However, ESPLOST does allow the school board to use its other funds to meet financial obligations without having to add additional ad valorem taxes.

Voters at the Depot poll will also be voting for a representative to occupy the District 4 seat which was vacated by Nether Ivery upon his resignation in May. Candidates for the position are Ed Darby and Rev. Dorothy Hart.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday. For more information on voting, call the Board of Elections at 706-595-2105. For more information on ESPLOST IV, visit the school system website at

Web posted on Thursday, September 14, 2006

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