LaGRANGE — The first in a series of town hall meetings for the proposed fifth education special-purpose, local-option sales tax drew a slim crowd of about two dozen people at Rosemont Baptist Church Tuesday evening.
The Rosemont area didn’t support the last E-SPLOST referendum, which passed countywide by a narrow margin, noted school system CFO Byron Jones, who touted his roots in the community. That is part of the reason the school system this year is making a concerted effort to host meetings and information sessions to lay out its plans for the next 1-percent sales tax.
Jones and other school officials also wanted to make sure that two things were clear: the upcoming vote for E-SPLOST will be for a continuation of the tax already in place, not an increase; and it is separate from the county’s SPLOST that has been used to fund projects like roads and the Sweetland Amphitheatre — E-SPLOST is purely for school system use.
The two SPLOSTs — county and school system — are each a 1 percent tax on locally sold items. Officials said about 30 percent of the sales taxes are paid by people from out of the county.
E-SPLOST funds are restricted to certain uses — building construction and repairs; and purchasing items like technology, safety equipment, buses and land. It cannot be used for other purposes, like paying employee salaries or utility bills, or buying instructional materials like textbooks.
The E-SPLOST currently collected has funded, among other projects, the $16 million Ethel Kight Elementary School that opened last year. If a continuation of the E-SPLOST is approved, officials similarly plan to create a new, larger school to replace the aging Whitesville Road Elementary School.
Jones cited the aim of building a school in an area more central to that school’s district to save transportation costs, as well as energy savings from more efficient equipment and building materials. He said the new Ethel Kight school’s utility cost is less than Hillcrest Elementary School, despite being twice as large.
New security measures are also planned for the upcoming E-SPLOST, with replacement, additions and upgrades of cameras at all schools, as well as making school entrances accessible only by entering the front office through a secured door, which a staff member has to remotely unlock — and may remotely lock down all doors — with a button.
Troup and LaGrange high schools also are slated for new multipurpose athletic facilities — similar to one Callaway High School received using current E-SPLOST funds.
Troup High School has multiple groups that now take turns using available space for practice and games, which officials expected to fix with the new facility allowing multiple groups to utilize it at once. THS principal Chip Medders estimated about 600 students are involved in athletics at the high school.
Renovations are planned at Rosemont Elementary School to add more space for cars waiting for student drop-off and pick-up, expand the cafeteria, add classrooms and improve the gym and playground, among other projects. Classrooms also are planned to be added to Hogansville and Hollis Hand elementary schools. General repair and climate control upgrades are also slated for schools throughout the system.
The school system anticipates collecting up to $68 million in the five-year E-SPLOST. The current E-SPLOST collections, set to end June 30, 2017, were capped at $59 million, but Jones admitted it will likely come in more around $54 million.
The town hall meetings are set to continue today at noon at Troup County School System Administrative Services Center, 100 N. Davis Road.
The rest of the slated dates are:
• April 26 at 6 p.m., Boys and Girls Club of LaGrange, 115 E. Cannon St.
• May 3 at 5:30 p.m., Boys and Girls Club of Hogansville, 611 E. Main St.
• May 5 at 6 p.m., West Point Elementary School, 1706 East 12th St.
In addition, online social media forums will be held every Thursday beginning this week. During the established times, Troup County School System’s Facebook page administrators will respond to E-SPLOST questions and concerns.
The Social media forum dates and times are:
• Thursday at noon.
• April 28 at 6 p.m.
• May 5 at noon.
• May 12 at 6 p.m.
• May 19 at 6 p.m.
• May 26 at noon.
Matthew Strother is the editor of LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311.