If it’s November, it’s time to vote

Published 6:55 pm Friday, November 4, 2011

Seems as if you can’t slip out of November without slipping into a voting booth.

This November is no exception. An important election is set for Tuesday to reaffirm the school board’s authority to collect a penny sales tax on every dollar spent in Decatur County.

The one-cent sales tax for education is not a new tax. We have been collecting this tax for the past few years, with proceeds going to either build new schools or rehab existing schools.

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The vote comes from you, which essentially says, “yes,” you may continue to collect this penny for use in efficient running of our schools for five more years. By law, the funds collected from this tax only may be used for capital improvements. That is — none of it goes for salaries, or curriculum materials. Those funds come from the general property tax.

Yet, without the penny for facility improvements, the money would have to come from increased property taxes.

So, here we are. The penny over the next five years, the length of the vote, would raise an estimated $30 million. That’s a powerful penny.

Just as a reminder — today we love the ease and the sales savings we receive when we order goods over the Internet. Those sales are growing into the billions each year, one of the fastest growing markets for retail sales.

The other lure of the Internet is that we can avoid paying sales taxes, which is seven cents on every dollar spent in Decatur County stores. So what are you doing when you buy off the Internet? You are denying the needed funds to the local cities, the county and the school district to continue to function without having to continuously raise property taxes.

Three cents of every seven cents collected in sales tax is returned to Decatur County. One cent to the county, one cent to the cities and one cent for schools. It’s a great bargain.

Known as SPLOST, or special option sales tax, we are voting Tuesday to extend the education SPLOST for another five years.

What has the penny purchased since the last time we approved the tax? Some of those projects include the new Bainbridge High School, the new West Bainbridge Elementary School, Hutto Middle School renovation, Potter Street Elementary renovation, John-Johnson Elementary renovation, Bainbridge Middle School renovation, computers/technology for classrooms and a bus fueling station.

All that from the power of the penny.

This year’s approval would also allow the school board to issue bonds in the amount of $15 million to get started on needed projects, plus pay off some debt from construction of the high school.

Proceeds from this tax allow the school district to build new schools, renovate existing buildings, purchase land for new school sites, purchase athletic equipment, computers, and all necessary equipment and fixtures.

Again, none of it goes to pay for salaries and operating expenses.

It’s been painless, folks. The penny has gone a long way in the last few years. Physical facilities to our schools would not have been possible, and we would have had to struggle with mediocre properties.

The power of this penny is quite remarkable. Your support is critical. Approve continuance of the tax or face the possibility of an increase in property taxes. It’s your choice.

Jim Smith writes a weekly column for The Post-Searchlight. You can leave a comment on his email at bainbooknook@yahoo.com or on www.thepostsearchlight.com.