McDuffie County schools Superintendent Jim LeBrun on Monday asked Thomson Kiwanis Club members to speak out about renovations under way at The Brickyard.
LeBrun said naysayers have objected to the spending. The superintendent offered his remarks after football coach and athletic director Milan Turner delivered the program.
Turner said the comments he has heard since Friday's 7-3 scrimmage victory over Lincoln County made him even more aware of how important football is to the Camellia City.
"It was like a state championship. It wasn't just a scrimmage. I'll tell you that," he said.
LeBrun said the stadium that has served the Thomson High School Bulldogs through three state championships will be one of the state's best facilities. That is the community's desire, he said. "That's what I was told when I got here."
LeBrun said some observers have questioned school leaders' priorities in dedicating money to an athletic facility while instruction spending is being contained.
Funds for athletic facilities and for teaching salaries come from "two totally separate pots of money," LeBrun said. Money cannot be shifted from one purpose to another, he said.
He said academics and student safety are his top priorities, but he also believes in a strong athletics program. Money for improvements to athletic facilities comes from SPLOST 4, he said. He reminded Kiwanians that voters approved that special purpose local option sales tax. As that SPLOST is expiring, voters are being asked this fall to approve a renewal of the tax.
The current tax has achieved several objectives, he said, including completing the middle school, upgrading technology, purchasing buses and textbooks, expanding the high school weight room and starting improvements to The Brickyard. The current tax will pay to replace the visitors' bleachers, replace the restrooms and the concession stands, and build a new electronic scoreboard. The extension of the tax will provide for new home bleachers at The Brickyard and other improvements.
LeBrun said replacing the bleachers was not optional. "It was just a matter of time until they would fail," he said.
He said income from the sales tax has been steady, at about $295,000 a month.