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BOE approves ballott question that would bring SPLOST, bond funds for 2 new schools

POSTED: August 3, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Barrow residents will get the chance to vote in November on a ballot question that, if passed, would allow the Barrow County School System to construct two new schools in the coming years.

The board of education approved a resolution during Thursday night’s called board meeting that will put on the November ballot a question asking voters to approve a renewal of the one percent Special Local Option Sales Tax and the authority to issue up to $25 million in bonds.

The five-year SPLOST IV would begin October, 2016 and have a cap of 58 million in collections over the five-year period. That would amount to an annual six percent sales tax growth, according to Raymond James financial advisor Tom Owens, who once again attended the meeting.

With flat sales tax revenue the system would raise roughly $43.8 million, although Barrow Executive Director of Business services Chris Griner noted that, with all of the growth on Highway 316 and beyond, six percent is a reasonable number.

Much of the SPLOST receipts gathered would go toward prior debt service ($37 million), with the remaining funds, combined with as much bond funding as necessary, to be spent constructing two more new schools, with the first almost definitely being a new elementary school.

In fact, the original ballot question called for the construction of two new elementary schools, but at Thursday’s meeting most board members agreed to change the language so as not to hold the district accountable for having to build two elementary schools when, down the road, a new high school may be needed first.

"Things could change," said board member Lynn Stevens, echoing the thoughts from other members. "I don't want to limit our options."

Fellow BOE member Mitch Churchill disagreed, saying there likely wouldn’t be enough money from the combination of bonds and SPLOST receipts to build anything more than two elementary schools.

Other board members countered that, depending on SPLOST receipts and more, it could be a possibility and the revised ballot keeps that flexibility.

No one argued that at least one new elementary school is needed within the next few years. There are 20 trailers at Holsenbeck, County Line and Statham Elementary schools, according to assistant superintendent in charge of system operations Joe Perno, and in a few years there should be plenty enough students, if projections hold, for another elementary school. That school is tentatively being planned for the same land off McNeal and Candler roads where preparations for the construction of a replacement Russell Middle are already underway.

Perno said the first new school is the item of second-highest priority on the current five-year plan behind the new Russell Middle. A second new elementary school as was first proposed to the board is in the tentative next five-year plan. Perno noted that toward the end of the second year plan there is the possibility of another high school, but that possibility is still a bit too far down the road to accurately project.

Still, the revised wording on the ballot question would give board members the option of possibly switching those two school priorities on the next five-year plan if projections change.

Regardless, the era of new-school construction in Barrow looks to continue.

 

Approved ballot question:

Shall a total of $25,000,000 in maximum aggregate principal amount of BARROW COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS (the "Bonds") be issued for the purposes of providing funds for (i) the acquisition, construction, and equipping of two new schools and facilities, including but not limited to new school buildings, physical education/athletic facilities and equipment, classrooms, lunchrooms, gymnasiums, and auditoriums, renovations and equipment for existing facilities, and the acquisition and purchase of any property necessary and desirable therefore, both real and personal property, including but not limited to technology, safety and security equipment and transportation facilities and equipment; (ii) paying capitalized interest on the Bonds; and (iii) paying the costs of issuing the Bonds; and shall a special one percent sales and use tax be continued in the Barrow County for a period of time not to exceed 20 calendar quarters and for the raising of not more than $58,000,000 for the purpose of (i) paying a portion of the debt service on the Bonds, and (ii) paying debt service on the outstanding BARROW COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS, SERIES 2010; BARROW COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS, SERIES 2012A; BARROW COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS, SERIES 2012B; and BARROW COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS, SERIES 2014 coming due February 1, 2017, through and including February 1, 2022, the maximum amount to be retired not to exceed $36,994,167.10?

 

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