A continuation of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is on the ballot this November, and Cherokee County School District officials say other taxes could increase if it’s not passed.
Superintendent Frank Petruzielo said in an email that if Cherokee County residents vote down the E-SPLOST, the Board of Education could vote in July to increase property taxes by 3.9 mills to continue making bond debt payments, which equates to approximately $320 a year for the average property owner.
“That not only hits all property owners in the wallet, it also can lower property values, stymie economic development and lead to inflation in costs for goods and services,” Petruzielo said.
The state gives school systems very little funding for school construction and no money for technology, Petruzielo said.
“The Education SPLOST gives the community a way to spread the cost of building new schools, renovating existing ones, buying school buses, and buying and installing technology among everyone who shops in Cherokee – not just property owners,” the superintendent said. “Through Ed SPLOST, future residents also will help share these costs, as the renewal is for five years.”
The E-SPLOST will be a continuation of the current one-cent sales tax that expires next year.
“We say it’s not an additional tax on top of that. It will not start until that tax ends,” said school board member Robert Wofford, who represents Post 1. “If (it isn’t approved), then we will have a new tax for sure that won’t apply to everybody. It will be a tax that will apply to property owners.”
The tax is expected to generate $155 million over a five-year period. That money will fund projects such as replacements for Teasley and Dean Rusk middle schools; a new softball field and field house at Cherokee High School; sewer lines for the Hickory Flat schools; parent entrances for Boston, Carmel and Holly Springs elementary schools; and other miscellaneous renovations and replacements. The school system also is planning to purchase new school buses and spend $40 million on technology upgrades.
“I was shocked how much it took,” Wofford said of the amount earmarked for technology. “It’s quite a bit. We have tons of programs out there that the kids should use.”
Wofford said his elementary-aged grandchildren use technology for their schoolwork.
“We’re on the computer three days a week or more,” he said. “It’s just amazing. And, it’s fun for them.”
Other funds in the E-SPLOST will be set aside to pay down bond debts from the construction of other schools.
“If we didn’t have any need for facilities, if we didn’t have any need for technology, we could put all the money back into this to pay off debt,” Wofford said. “It would probably leave us with surplus. At this time, we’re not building as much as we have in the past. The downside is, we’re not going to bring in as much on this one because the economy is down.”
Cherokee County voters previously approved the E-SPLOST in 1997, 2001 and 2006. Voters will again decide the issue on Nov. 8.