Promotion efforts for the Education Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax referendum, the renewal of which will be on the May 24 general primary ballot in Liberty County, are underway.
An ESPLOST committee led by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce met Monday afternoon for a planning meeting to discuss different marketing strategies and ways to share information about ESPLOST.
ESPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax to help fund school projects, including facility improvements, technology, buses, instructional materials and safety and security enhancements. ESPLOST does not fund salaries. The referendum is a continuation of the existing 1 percent sales tax in Liberty County.
The current ESPLOST started June 1, 2012, and expires June 30, 2017. According to an ESPLOST information card the Chamber produced, between fiscal 2011 and 2015, ESPLOST spending broke down this way: 47 percent was used for technology, 39 percent was renovations, 6 percent for construction and remodeling, 5 percent on equipment and 3 percent on textbooks.
Leah Poole, the CEO of the Chamber and Liberty County Convention and Visitors Bureau, talked with parents and community members about the promotion efforts.
Also attending were Liberty County School System Assistant Superintendent Susan Avant and Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Carolyn Smith Carter.
Marketing ideas included informational postcards, announcements in church bulletins, use of billboards, sharing information with family and friends through social media, submitting newspaper editorials, attending community meetings and encouraging others to go to meetings.
Poole said children are not the only ones who benefit from ESPLOST and having good schools.
“If we didn’t have good schools, it would make the job that I do and that the economic development authority does a lot harder,” Poole said. “When people look to locate their businesses and industries here, they look at your schools. That’s one of the first things they look at because they want students of their employees to have good schools, stable schools, safe schools, tech-savvy schools, schools that have high test scores, all of those things. So if our schools don’t have the money that they need for those types of things, that’s going to impact a lot more stuff.”
Poole added that there was a $20.5 million increase in spending in the last five years for tourism in Liberty County.
“So if you take about 1 percent of that $20 million, it’s going towards education,” Poole said. “That’s a lot of money not coming from Liberty County residents’ pockets. It’s coming from people outside of the community, and that’s a good thing.”
Recently Poole and Amanda Scott, the CVB’s program manager, presented a check to CVB board members Donald Lovette and Sandra Martin for $3.3 million as a symbol of the local tax revenues, from fiscal 2014, generated by tourism.
During the check presentation, Poole said tourism saved households $264 in taxes.
Poole said Monday that the committee also needs fundraising assistance to help provide information materials.
She mentioned TQ Contractors, the school system’s construction manager, as the sponsor of the Chamber’s Eggs and Issues Breakfast, scheduled for April 27 at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center, and a Hinesville Area Board Realtors committee contributed funds that provided for informational postcards.
Poole encouraged attendees to educate people in the community and get other organizations involved in sharing information.
There will be an ESPLOST informational district community meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Taylors Creek Elementary School, 378 Airport Road in Hinesville.
Other scheduled meetings are:
• April 11 at 6 p.m., Liberty County Performing Arts Center, 2104 E. Oglethorpe Highway, Flemington.
• April 18 at 6:30 p.m., First Zion Baptist Church, 8159 E.B. Cooper Highway, Riceboro.
• April 27 at 8 a.m., Chamber Eggs and Issues Breakfast event, Performing Arts Center.
• May 2 at 6:30 p.m., Liberty County Community Complex, 9397 E. Oglethorpe Highway, Midway.