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We must extend the education sales tax

The current Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST), passed by Decatur County voters in 2005, expires in June 2012. On Nov. 8, the Decatur County Board of Education will ask voters to approve the referendum to extend the current one-cent sales tax for five additional years. We agree with the school board and urge voters to approve the extension of the ESPLOST.

Generating roughly $4 million annually, this sales tax is paid by everyone who shops in Decatur County. Our schools are being funded by not only Decatur County citizens, but also other Georgia citizens, Florida citizens, Alabama citizens and anyone else who visits and spends money here.

If the referendum happens not to pass, the need for capital projects would not disappear. The bond payments for the construction of Bainbridge High School would remain and would require repayment from property taxes. This would shift the burden to a vastly smaller amount of taxpayers — property owners in Decatur County. The bond payments alone equate to 1.86 mills of property taxes.

Revenue from the ESPLOST, by mandate, can only be used for capital projects and cannot be used for operational expenses, such as salaries or instructional materials. The list of proposed projects that would be funded by extending the referendum includes, but is not limited to: payment of existing debt, major renovation/ replacement of Jones- Wheat Elementary and Elcan-King Elementary Schools, upgrades to system-wide technology, and purchase of school buses.

A “yes” vote to extend the ESPLOST is not a vote for a tax increase, simply a vote to extend the current penny sales tax. And, more importantly, a “yes” vote provides the funding to allow Decatur County school children to attend safe, modern schools that greatly enhance the educational process and give them the best chance to succeed.