E-SPLOST up­date com­ing

The su­per­in­ten­dent and BOE are mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing is done right for an ed­u­ca­tion sales tax ex­ten­sion.

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Myrick Ed­i­tor

As vot­ers get ready to head to the polls in Novem­ber, one county-wide is­sue is back on the bal­lot to pro­vide money for the Polk School Dis­trict to use in im­prove­ments and main­te­nance spend­ing.

The Board of Ed­u­ca­tion in Au­gust sought to get the 2017 Ed­u­ca­tion-only Spe­cial Pur­pose, Lo­cal Op­tion Sales Tax fund on the bal­lot for the Novem­ber mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion, and though they are ask­ing for a con­tin­u­a­tion of the SPLOST fund, this ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to move more cau­tiously in the fu­ture.

School board mem­bers got an up­date about where the pro- cess stands from Su­per­in­ten­dent Lau­rie Atkins dur­ing the Septem­ber board meet­ing with one goal in mind: to en­sure that ev­ery­thing is be­ing done right the first time and avoid any fu­ture spend­ing is­sues.

“We’re mak­ing sure that ev­ery­thing is on the up and up, so we can go in with con­fi­dence that it doesn’t put the dis­trict at a strain to com­plete these projects,” Atkins said. “We’re work­ing hard on en­sur­ing that we have a prop- er time­line and sched­ule for ev­ery­thing should the SPLOST pass and go through.”

Atkins said the idea is to avoid the sit­u­a­tion that Polk School Dis­trict cur­rently finds it­self in: con­struc­tion has been com­pleted on all of the 2014 SPLOST projects, in­clud­ing the re­cently opened Polk County Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy cam­pus at Cedar­town High School.

How­ever it came with a cost of spend­ing a bit more than the school board would have liked out of the gen­eral fund bal­ance, and this year re­quired the ap­proval and use of a Tax An­tic­i­pa­tion Note to­tal­ing $1.6 mil­lion.

Learn­ing from this past SPLOST, Atkins said both she and cen­tral of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tors and the school board have turned to Ed­u­ca­tion Plan­ners once again to pro­vide their con­sult­ing work on all the num­bers.

She said they are look­ing at how the SPLOST has worked in the past, and what rev­enue has been brought in along with other fig­ures in­volved in the process like a bud­get of how much con­struc­tion will cost well ahead of any con­struc­tion be­gin­ning. Es­pe­cially since this time around they’ll be ask­ing for a max­i­mum of $25 mil­lion from the 1-cent sales tax in the con­tin­u­a­tion of SPLOST col­lec­tion for the Polk School Dis­trict.

And they won’t be mov­ing for­ward with any con­struc­tion projects im­me­di­ately.

“If the SPLOST passes, we’ll still have to seek out architects to pro­vide the plans and bid out the project, so it’ll be some time be­fore we start any work,” Atkins said.

The school dis­trict will also have to go through bond sales again, us­ing most of the col­lec­tions as part of sales tax paid at the counter to in or­der to make the pay­ments back to in­vestors who bought the bonds.

The SPLOST be­ing pro­posed for this bal­lot is the same one put forth by two past su­per­in­ten­dents, Wil­liam Hunter when he ini­tially pre­sented the plan in Oc­to­ber 2016, and Dar­rell Wether­ing­ton when he sought to get the board to ap­prove the cost of hav­ing the elec­tion ear­lier this year.

Money be­ing sought for the SPLOST in­cludes money for the Fine Arts im­prove­ments and build­ing ren­o­va­tions at Cedar­town High School and a new Agri­cul­ture and An­i­mal Sciences Ed­u­ca­tion build­ing at Rockmart High School, along with a num­ber of main­te­nance and im­prove­ment proj- ects at the 9 other schools in the dis­trict.

Plans in­clude up­grade heating and air con­di­tion­ing at Cedar­town Mid­dle School, Chero­kee El­e­men­tary and Rockmart High School,, new track sur­faces for both high schools, a new foot­ball press box, con­ces­sion stand and gym divider wall at Rockmart High School, a re­stroom and con­ces­sion fa­cil­ity at Rockmart Mid­dle School, and ren­o­va­tions to the board an­nex build­ing next to the Cen­tral Of­fice, which now houses in­ter­net tech­nol­ogy equip­ment and of­fices. The plans also call for look­ing at playground equip­ment up­grades at lo­cal el­e­men­tary schools as well.

“These im­prove­ments have been a long time com­ing, and the com­mu­nity, kids, par­ents and teach­ers have worked hard in those pro­grams, but haven’t had the avail­able space to have full ca­pa­bil­i­ties for what the pro­gram can of­fer,” Atkins said.

Ed­u­ca­tion Plan­ners and Atkins will be pro­vid­ing a full pre­sen­ta­tion to the com­mu­nity dur­ing the up­com­ing com­bined meet­ing for the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion on this com­ing Tues­day night, Oct. 3, start­ing at 6 p.m.

Atkins said that along with the pre­sen­ta­tion at the up­com­ing meet­ing, there’s also an in­vi­ta­tiononly Com­mu­nity Part­ners meet­ing be­ing held with those who are in­stru­men­tal in the ed­u­ca­tion process, from vol­un­teers in lo­cal churches and or­ga­ni­za­tions to busi­ness part­ners who have pre­vi­ously pro­vided do­na­tions to dis­cuss the plans for the fu­ture.

Be­cause the up­com­ing SPLOST is only a con­tin­u­a­tion of the 1- cent sales tax taken lo­cally for the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, it will not in­crease the sales tax any if vot­ers ap­prove the mea­sure on the bal­lot on Nov. 7.

Vot­ers pre­vi­ously ap­proved the ex­ten­sion of the SPLOST for ed­u­ca­tion pur­poses in 2014, which saw the com­ple­tion of the Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy, new class­rooms at East­side El­e­men­tary, a new field house and gym en­trance at Rockmart High School, and ren­o­va­tions of the Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy wing at Rockmart High School.

Kevin Myrick / Stan­dard Jour­nal

Board of Ed­u­ca­tion mem­ber Bernard Mor­gan and Chair­man Tommy San­ders lis­ten as Su­per­in­ten­dent Lau­rie Atkins ex­plains what the cur­rent process is for the pro­posed ex­ten­sion of the ed­u­ca­tion-only SPLOST.

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