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Decatur County votes to renew Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax

Georgia High School nears completion of first phase of expansion
Posted at 10:55 AM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 10:55:06-04

DECATUR COUNTY, Ga. (WTXL) — Decatur County voters passed the renewal of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and the Issuance of Bonds Tuesday with 550 voting in favor of the renewal, and 166 opposed. Turnout was 4.18 percent.

Districts leaders say holding on to the penny sales tax will keep schools in South Georgia going, and get them some much-needed improvements.

"On the average in a 5-year cycle we collect roughly $20 million," says Decatur County Schools superintendent Tim Cochran.

Every five years, voters decide whether to keep the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales tax, also known as ESPLOST.

The tax helps school districts fund major renovations, and keep things like buses and technology up to date.

"It also helps us buy computers. We are one-to-one in our district. When COVID hit, we had the infrastructure to go virtual just like that because of the infrastructure we had a place, in large part to having SPLOST funds."

If Decatur county voters approve the tax, it will also help pay off the recently built high school and other projects.

"Our next big project in our community is a new middle school," said Cochran.

Parents agree it's much needed.

Both of our middle schools are aging when is our old high school I think that the children will be better off," said Laura Peiper, who lives in Decatur.

In Thomas County, the Thomasville City School district is hoping to make similar changes.

"We have five campuses in Thomasville city schools," explains superintendent Ben Wiggins. "We have three elementary schools, and if the next ESPLOST does pass, if voters agreed to support us with a yes vote, the three elementary schools will each be modernized and renovated."

The biggest challenge this time is getting voters who have been impacted by the pandemic to vote yes.

"This is going to take time for families, but we do think it's important for the economic development of Thomas city and Thomas County. Students are our best resource, our number one resource for future employers and future citizens of our community, and while we do understand that there may be some hardships due to COVID, this is a sales tax which is a voluntary tax."