School board will seek voters’ OK for third SPLOST

TERESA GEE HARRIS was elected chairman and Cuy Harrell III was elected vice chairman during Tuesday night’s board of education meeting.

The Grady County Board of Education kicked off the new year by authorizing Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis to begin preparations to call for a referendum on the extension of the penny sales tax for education.
“The focus of this SPLOST, if we are fortunate enough to have it approved, will be the elimination of our general obligation debt,” Dr. Pharis said Tuesday night.
With the board’s approval Pharis will begin making the necessary arrangements for the referendum to be held on Tuesday, Sept. 15. The voters will have the option of voting to extend the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for another five years or voting to stop collection of the additional penny in local sales taxes.
Currently the school board is making debt payments with ad valorem taxes and the annual debt service cost is approximately $380,000. However, in 2011 the payments balloon to over $600,000 annually.
From the beginning of budget talks last year Pharis has said the number one priority of a SPLOST 3, if passed by the voters, will be to use the sales tax revenue, rather than property taxes, to retire the debt of the school system.
According to the superintendent’s calculations, the board can be debt free by October 1, 2015 if the SPLOST revenue is put toward debt service.
The schools are in the process of submitting priority lists for facilities needs, but Pharis notes that the majority of the SPLOST would be going toward debt reduction.
“Once that debt has been paid off, the superintendent and board at that time will be able to address the facilities needs of the schools and be in the financial position to do so,” Dr. Pharis said.

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