LaGRANGE — The Board of Education on Thursday approved seeking a renewal of the education special-purpose, local-option sales tax, or E-SPLOST, to collect a projected $68,058,827 over the next five years.
The referendum calls for the measure to be on the state and local primary election ballot for voter consideration May 24, 2016. If approved, the measure would continue the 1 percent sales tax on items sold in Troup County, effective July 1, 2017. Otherwise, the current E-SPLOST is set to expire June 30, 2017.
The board also accepted a list of proposals for projects that may be covered in the new E-SPLOST. The proposal includes the authority to seek a $36 million bond to fund projects up front.
Although listed among the approved proposals, the system won’t necessarily seek to bond projects, said John Radcliffe, assistant superintendent of maintenance and operations. He noted the school system had authority to seek a bond to fund building the Ethel W. Kight Elementary School and renovations to THINC Academy, but opted to instead pay out of its general fund and use the E-SPLOST payments to reimburse itself as it went, avoiding debt payments.
The projected debt payments if the system does seek the $36 million bond — assuming the E-SPLOST is approved – is about $2.7 million paid over five years.
“At the last go around, we didn’t have to bond,” Radcliffe said. “So if we don’t have to bond again, that’s more money to go back into the community.”
The total list of projects, when including debt service, totals to an estimated $71.35 million, more than the about $68 million cap for the E-SPLOST collections. But Radcliffe said the list is all projects identified for potential E-SPLOST use, but other funding factors may contribute, including $7 million that could be contributed from state capital outlay funds.
At the top of the list for the new E-SPLOST is about $46.5 million in renovations and expansions for Hollis Hand, Hogansville and Rosemont elementary schools; LaGrange, Troup and Callaway high schools; THINC academy; and the LaGrange and Troup high athletic facilities.
About $1 million is set aside for land purchases to accommodate school expansions, if necessary.
Other projects listed in the proposal for projects are:
• Safety and security-related projects estimated at $2.4 million. Those projects include creating front entrances that allow more visibility of people approaching the school, doors that automatically lock when classes begin and that can be quickly locked down as needed, Radcliffe noted. No one could enter during school hours unless they are let in by someone in the front office. The new Ethel W. Kight Elementary School features this design.
“It’s unfortunate that in the time in which we live that we have to take those precautions,” he said.
Security camera upgrades for all schools and on school buses also would be included, Radcliffe said.
• Technology upgrades and additions — which includes systemwide upgrading of classroom computers, software and printers — is slated for $3.5 million.
• Equipment, software replacement and upgrades — including textbooks, school furniture replacements and additions, and copier replacements — at $2.5 million.
• HVAC replacements are listed for Hillcrest and West Point elementary schools, Long Cane Middle School and Callaway High School, with additional schools on an as-needed basis, budgeted for $5.5 million.
• Roofing replacements and renovations for Long Cane Elementary, the Troup High School Fine Arts Center and potential other areas are on tap for $3.5 million.
• Flooring replacements and renovations are budgeted for $1.5 million, with Callaway High School at the top of the list for potential work, Radcliffe said.
• Paving improvements are estimated at $1 million.
• Improvements are on tap for the track areas outside Whitesville Road Elementary and LaGrange High schools. The projects would be split with Troup County Parks and Recreation. Also, improvement for the Callaway stadium turf, a project split with parks and recreation and LaGrange College, is planned. The total school system share for those projects is estimated at $1.25 million.
Matthew Strother is the editor for LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311. ext. 2153.