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Vote pleases Baker
Lily Baker
Lily Baker
By Daisy Jones
Coastal Courier (Hinesville, GA) Staff Writer

It’s not business as usual for the Liberty County Board of Education.
Despite Tuesday’s low voter turnout for the referendum to continue the penny sales tax, Liberty County Board of Education Chairwoman Lily H. Baker said the board would be accountable to everybody.
“We’ll use those pennies and guard their tax dollars and be accountable for them,” Baker said Saturday.  
Eighty percent of Tuesday’s voters were in favor of continuing the Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax after it expires May 31. Despite the fact that only two percent of the 22,843 register voters spoke out, Baker said she appreciated 534 voters and others who supported the school system.
“We’re pleased with the support that we’re getting from those who are interested in coming out to support. I’m not disappointed with the numbers, didn’t expect any greater, but just pleased with the results,” she said.
Voters approved the continuation of the penny tax for the next five years, starting June 1. The board anticipates raising $55 million to build two new schools, make improvements to Jordye Bacon Elementary, Button Gwinnett Elementary, Lyman Hall and other schools.  A great deal of time and money have been spent on Bradwell Institute renovations to make it a “state of the art” school, officials said. There are also a list of repairs and upgrades to existing schools.
“All of the pennies will now go toward helping educate our youth. It is important that we give them the best education, the best facilities, the best technology,” the chairwoman said.
Discussion is already underway with Fort Stewart to construct a middle school on 15th Street just outside the post gate. The school would be constructed on installation property with entrances from on and off post.  Officials said the school would be controlled by the local school system. The plans for a new elementary school have not been divulged.
A planned 1,200 to 4,000-seat performing arts center is expected to be a county owned property. Returning from this week’s annual county planning workshop, Baker said she hopes to see more than just an auditorium.
“From what the other entities are saying we’re looking at something for multipurpose use. Somewhere we can bring in events and use it for different activities,” Baker said, noting the lack of facility in the county. “A lot of things we do in this county end up at Fort Stewart because that’s the only place where there is a facility large enough.”
A unified approach to bringing a center to the county since the school system would use the facility a few times during the year. “When we start looking at figures, spending millions is a lot of money to be used only a few times for the schools system,” Baker said.
“From my standpoint it would be beneficial for a county performing art center that the board of education could play a part in, and then it would be accessible to the entire county. This board is leaning toward working with the county, but the board has not made any definite decision,” the chairman said. “I’m hoping all governing bodies will come together and discuss what we want, and more than what we need.” 
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