School board moving forward with sales tax vote

The Grady County Board of Education voted unanimously this week to ask Probate Judge Denise Maddox, as elections superintendent, to call for a referendum on a one percent Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to be held in conjunction with the Nov. 4 general election.
Board members were first presented with the ballot language and the proposed resolution last month and on Tuesday night it was approved without any changes or discussion.
Voters will be asked, “Shall a one percent sales and use tax for educational purposes be imposed in the Grady County School District for a period of time not to exceed 20 consecutive calendar quarters and for the raising of not more than $16,000,000 for the purposes of funding the following capital outlay projects: acquiring, constructing, and equipping a College and Career Academy on the campus of Cairo High School; renovating and improving Southside Elementary School and other schools within the system; constructing and renovating administrative and maintenance facilities; purchasing and equipping school buses and other vehicles; purchasing instructional equipment and materials, including textbooks and e-books; upgrading system-wide technology and security equipment; renovating, constructing and improving athletic facilities; and acquiring real and personal property necessary for or to be used for the foregoing purposes and all other general purposes related to these capital outlay projects?”
By voting yes the county’s voters would also authorize the school system to issue up to $7,000,000 in general obligation debt to fast track the above stated projects. The general obligation bonds that would be issued would be repaid with proceeds from the ESPLOST.
If approved this would not be an additional tax, but merely the continuation of the current ESPLOST, which expires next year.
The resolution approved this week also authorizes the school system to retain the services of Raymond James & Associates of Atlanta to provide placement agent or underwriting services as well as authorizing school board attorney Thomas L. Lehman to retain the firm of Gray Panell & Woodward of Savannah as bond counsel.
Board member Teresa Gee Harris questioned if voting to approve the resolution stipulated exactly which projects would be funded and Finance Officer Dan Broome indicated it did not.
Superintendent Lee M. Bailey said that a list of projects had been developed and presented to the school board, but added “nothing has been set in stone.”
Broome said that the ballot language allows the school board flexibility in what projects are funded with the sales tax and which are not. “Once we begin to publicize the ESPLOST it is our intention to be more specific in what projects we plan to pay for with the ESPLOST. We want the public to know everything we are going to do with the money,” Broome said.
In related news Tuesday night, Career Technical and Adult Education (CTAE) Director Todd Gainous briefed the board on the plans to construct the new College and Career Academy on the southend of the Cairo High School campus.
Gainous reported that he and other school personnel had met with Architect Greg Smith of Buckley & Associates about the design of the new academy.
“He presented a concept floor plan for the new building and it meets our needs, not our desires,” Gainous said.
The CTAE director said that the facility has had to be scaled down somewhat to fit within the proposed budget for the project. He also said that Smith has not designed the building in the requested style which mirrors the science wing on the north end of the campus.
“We are looking at that shape to bookend the school,” Gainous said.
He told board members another meeting is being held this morning with Smith and some of the concerns local officials have expressed will be addressed.
Because of bureaucracy at the state level Gainous is saying the new academy building will not open until the 2016-2017 school year. He wants the new facility to be completed four to six months prior to the opening of schools so that school officials will have enough time to make sure it is exactly what they want before beginning classes there.
Gainous said that work on the new facility and renovations of some of the older vocational and agriculture facilities can take place while school is in session.
The CTAE director said he is hopeful next summer the ag building and the heavy labs at the high school can be renovated so that when the academy opens in 2016-2017 the remainder of the existing vocation education building can be renovated.
“My goal is to keep you informed. Not only will a new building soon come up from the ground, but its what we can offer our students, from now on, inside that is so exciting,” Gainous said.

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