A proposed new school in Long County dominated a public information meeting Tuesday held by Superintendent Dr. Robert Waters and the Board of Education.
The forum, “The State of the Long County School System,” attracted more than 100 people to Long County High School. Though much information was provided, most of the questions and comments focused on the proposed school and tax increase to pay part of the cost. Waters said he nor the BoE was advocating nor opposing the millage increase. That decision was up to the citizens, he said.
The superintendent said that he and board members felt they should provide information about an opportunity to receive $25.7 million from the state to build the school. Waters said because Long County is considered a low-wealth system, it qualified for the money.
He said there is no guarantee the money would be available in the future. He also said growth in the county could make it ineligible for the money in the future.
Waters said the system has to come up with $3 million to qualify for the money.
The only way to raise the money, Waters said, was the 1.6-mill tax increase since ESPLOST funds are already committed.
Waters said the increase would cost citizens with a home valued at $100,000 $5.33 a month or $64 dollars annually.
He said he feared growth in the county will require measures to increase classroom space, even if the referendum fails Tuesday. In 2005, he said, there were 2,170 students in the county. Today there are 3,259.
Without a new school, the superintendent said he feared portable classrooms will be purchased in the future.
Waters said another positive to a new third-eighth grade school was a safe and secure building. He said some current classrooms were built in 1951 and that students move between classes outside. He said students at both the new high school and Smiley Elementary don’t go outside to get to classes.
Though it appeared the majority of the people favored the referendum, some asked questions and made statements against the proposal. One questioned putting the school on Highway 84, outside of Ludowici. Another thought that would ease traffic congestion downtown.
One person said the decision to build a new school had been too hasty, that more options should be researched. Waters said the decision had been quick because of the state money.
Residents cast ballots on the issue Tuesday.