On Tuesday, March 15, the citizens of Liberty County will have the opportunity to continue their support for public education in Liberty County by renewing the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for education (ESPLOST). This is not a new tax, but rather a vote to continue the one-cent sales tax that currently is in place in Liberty County and supporting the Liberty County School System.
People often ask what the money from ESPLOST is used for and why it is so important to the school system. Money from ESPLOST is used in the purchase of property, construction of schools and school system facilities, additions and renovations of existing facilities, technology and school buses. As specified under Georgia law, the dollars from ESPLOST cannot be used for salaries, benefits or for any expenditure other than those listed in the referendum. Money from previous ESPLOST referendums has been used to furnish all students with excellent school facilities, provide for the pre-K center, make extensive renovations at Bradwell Institute, implement state-of-the-art technology that exceeds what is available almost anywhere else in the United States and purchase the performing arts center. Numerous LCSS schools have benefited from major maintenance and renovations, including new roofs, new HVAC systems, additional classrooms and paving. But we are not finished.
The upcoming ESPLOST will allow us to continue our efforts. The school system has purchased the old Brewton-Parker property. Schools in Liberty County are using this building for plays, concerts, media festival and meetings as well as many community activities. We’re planning to add to the building, which will increase seating capacity and provide space for a kitchen/sit-down eating facility to better serve both school and community events. A recent standing-room-only band concert given by the two high schools is a perfect example of why we need to expand the performing arts center.
Construction will begin in the next month on the Liberty College and Career Academy. This facility will house high-tech programs that will allow any high school student to enter a career pathway and earn both high school and technical college credit while still in high school. The program allows students to graduate from high school with a specific skill set that will immediately propel them into the workforce or give them a head start in college.
Other renovations are in the works, such as the installation of new gym floors at each elementary school. Other capital improvements will include keeping our technology upgraded, a new cafeteria at Jordye Bacon Elementary and the purchase and refurbishment of our school buses.
Without the money from ESPLOST, many of these projects and others will have to wait or be paid for with property-tax dollars.
The ESPLOST is the only tax that voters get to vote on and determine how it is spent. The tax is shared by all individuals who do business in the county, not just the property owners. If approved, the ESPLOST will expire in June 2017 unless it is again renewed by the citizens. Voting is a constitutional right made possible by the sacrifices of our military families, and I urge you to go vote Tuesday.
Scherer is superintendent of Liberty County Schools