With everyone but board member Joe Watson present, the Board of Education voted unanimously in a called meeting Monday to place SPLOST renewal on the Nov. 2 General Election ballot. Board Attorney Tom Cable said the Secretary of State Office is now opining that not as much notice is needed before placing SPLOSTs on a ballot but that board approval will begin the legal advertising process early in an abundance of caution.
No specific SPLOST projects were listed in the resolution, and Superintendent Cliff Cole said a supplemental resolution to follow will provide specifics.
The current school SPLOST expires next year when its duration is reached; SPLOSTs also can end early if established dollar amounts are collected, but that is not the case here.
Cole said the majority of a renewed, third school SPLOST would be used to retire the debt on current buildings with a smaller amount to be used for maintenance projects such as carpeting, painting, etc. “Some schools that are 10 years old haven’t been repainted or recarpeted,” he said.
The district soon will begin determining specific SPLOST uses, said Cole.
“We’ve sold bonds with the last two SPLOSTs,” and renewal “will provide [property] taxpayer relief down the road” as residents and visitors without local property share in providing the penny sales tax, said the superintendent.
“There won’t be any new construction,” he offered.
New buildings aren’t needed at this time because growth has slowed, Cole said. The school system expects to add only about 400 new students in the school year starting Friday, he said.
“As far as buildings, we’re probably in better shape now than since I came here in 1997,” said Cole.
If voters renew the school SPLOST in November, continued collection of the tax will reduce the burden on homeowners during its five-year duration, although not immediately.
If the referendum fails, “we’ll have to look at the millage rate” to retire school construction debt and perform maintenance, said Cole.
The school system’s maintenance and operations millage rate is now 18.909 mills. Twenty mills is the maximum the system can levy without special legislation from the Georgia General Assembly.
Cole also noted that “a mill doesn’t bring in what it did a few years ago.”
He said the district will advertise specifically what a renewed SPLOST would do after those uses are determined soon.