The purpose of this letter from the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is to remind McDuffie County voters of an important vote coming up next Tuesday, Sept. 19. The special election's sole purpose is to decide whether or not to renew the 1 percent Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). The renewal (not a new tax!!) is for a five-year time period, beginning January 2008 and running for five years, or until a total of $23 million dollars is collected, whichever comes first. The tax revenue is earmarked for the county school system and is to be used to fund capital types of projects...new schools, additional classrooms, maintenance projects, new bus purchases, technology upgrades, those sorts of items ... as opposed to general operational expenses, which are funded differently.
A majority "yes" vote also approves going forward with a general obligation bond, allowing complete construction of the eighth-ninth grade middle school (as opposed to "phased" construction), saving thousands of dollars in construction costs, going forward.
The local option sales tax has proven time and again to be an extremely effective method of providing funding for the strategic plans of our Board of Education, without putting a huge property tax burden on local citizens. Property tax rate comparisons show that these rates are typically lower in any county when there is a "SPLOST" in place. This holds true for McDuffie County as well.
Further, studies of past tax revenues generated by the local option sales tax show that 40 cents out of every $1 the tax generates, comes from folks outside our county, using Thomson-McDuffie as a shopping preference. In fact, figures show that for a county in our population range, McDuffie has a higher "pull" factor (out-of-county people doing business in McDuffie) than any county in our area.
Clearly, it takes a fair amount of money to have and maintain a quality school system, one that keeps learning trends headed in the right direction, that keeps the physical assets in good shape, and provides for future growth. A dynamic and modern school system also clearly benefits the whole county regarding commercial/industrial growth and the families that come with that growth. Just ask anyone you know who has ever had to relocate for whatever reason, to give you their most important reason for choosing to settle in a particular town or area. If they have school-age children, the quality of the local school system will typically be one of the top reasons for choosing one area over another...as it should be. We need to keep capital expenditures funded in this manner...in no way could we keep funding ahead on this category of expense if we had to depend on property tax.
In our opinion, the Board has put together a good capital plan for how the system should grow and meet the needs of the community and its children. Information on the plan is available at the Chamber office. We support the renewal of this tax and know that a majority of McDuffie County voters feel the same way. Please get out and support our local schools with your "yes" to the SPLOST renewal next Tuesday.
The Board of Directors of the
Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce