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ESPLOST deserves "YES" vote Tuesday

Vote YES on September 19.

Allow me to step with at least one leg outside of the world of sports this week to say again; vote YES on Sept. 19. Believe it or not, the question on the ballot will not be, "Are the Thomson Bulldogs your favorite football team?"

McDuffie County voters will have the opportunity to approve a fourth Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax of one penny on the dollar to enhance the learning environment of their school children. I say "their" because even if you don't have children in the public schools, the education that local students receive is obviously important.

Common sense dictates that we take advantage of this opportunity. The interstate, Wal-Mart and other businesses bring in lots of dollars from elsewhere that we must take advantage of. If we don't, plain and simple, our property taxes will eventually go up to adequately support the school system. The state is also willing to provide more matching money to the local school board for construction needs if this ESPLOST is passed.

Stepping back into the world of sports, my fear is that the renovation of The Brickyard has been perceived by the public as the leading reason for voting YES on this SPLOST. I, like any other football fan, recognize the need for improvements to the THS stadium. I also work in the school system and am aware of many other needs. I want to use this space to say that The Brickyard is not the only reason for ESPLOST IV.

Many of you have never had a child to play football, lead cheers, or play in the band in The Brickyard. You may question the need of spending money on a football stadium that will be used for big crowds, including graduation, less than ten times a year. If you are not a football fan, this too is a reasonable question, but is akin to asking why should we build roads when I seldom drive anywhere.

You may even ask: if there are other needs, why has The Brickyard been made the headliner in promoting this sales tax? Is football more important than classrooms? Again, that is a reasonable question. The answer to that question is no. Thomson is a football town, but even the diehards would agree that classrooms are more important than locker rooms.

We must also remember that Sept. 19 is not a referendum on the popularity of the school board and administration. It is not a vote for or against starting school in July. It should not be used as an effort to prove any point except that we want what is best for our children.

You can ask many questions about the proposed grocery list that is planned for the proceeds from this sales tax. That is the right of the public. The answer to your questions will tell you that besides work on the football stadium, the school system needs to build two new schools and they have to be paid for somehow. It just so happens that football tends to get more attention than anything else on the list. That's not necessarily by design, but just a fact of life around here.

I personally think the ESPLOST will pass, but it must not be taken for granted. The voter turnout will likely be low and some people just philosophically vote against any type of tax, even though this won't be an increase. ESPLOST has been in effect in McDuffie County since 1997.

If we are to expect the best from the schoolchildren of McDuffie County, we must prove that we are willing to give them our best. Even if you never darken the gates of the football stadium, you must realize the logic in voting YES on this issue. Thomson High does not have a football game next week but this vote is bigger than a trek into a nice stadium. Let's go out on Tuesday and prove it!

Web posted on Thursday, September 14, 2006

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