Upson County residents have begun weighing in on whether to extend a one percent sales tax projected to generate as much as $28 million for use by the Thomaston-Upson School District.
Early voting opened Monday, Feb. 27 for the education special local option sales tax, reportedly intended to service bond obligation and fund projects for the area school system. However, language in a notice released by the system indicates that the board of education will be empowered to modify use of proceeds.
According to the notice, “…the board of education may choose what capital outlay projects to undertake or not undertake or to delay until additional funding is available to the extent that the proceeds of the [tax] and general obligation debt are insufficient to complete any of the [projects].
“Plans and specifications for the [projects] have not been initiated and bids have not been received. Depending upon acquisition and construction costs and available funds, the board of education may add to, modify, or delete specific projects.”
If approved by voters, the “sales tax for education” would be imposed beginning April 1, 2025, “or upon the earlier expiration of the sales tax for education currently in effect.” Maximum length of tax collection would be 20 consecutive calendar quarters, or five years.
As of Monday, only 158 of Upson’s 15,900 qualified voters had cast ballots during the first week of ESPLOST early voting at the civic center.
According to budget documents from the BOE, the local system estimates fund equity at the end of the current school year will be almost $11.5 million in the general fund, more than $941,000 in “special revenue,” and $826,000 in “capital projects” – a total surplus of more than $13.2 million.
Partially because of increased assessments, local tax officials indicate that Upson’s digest could grow by as much as $100 million this year, effectively driving down future “rollback” millage rates. To qualify for state funding of more than $4 million, school tax must be set at 14 mills.
School officials used the grant qualification threshold to justify a tax increase last year, and likely will face a similar decision this year.
Following (from a story originally printed in the Feb. 1 edition of The Upson Beacon) is the question which appears on the ESPLOST ballot:
“Shall a total of not more than $25 million in aggregate principal amount of Thomaston-Upson County School District general obligation bonds be issued for the following purposes: acquiring, constructing, repairing, improving, renovating, extending, upgrading, adding to, furnishing and/or equipping school buildings, athletic and support facilities, and/or infrastructure in the [school district] useful or desirable in connection therewith, including acquiring any necessary property therefore, both real and personal, specifically including the following:
•acquiring safety and security equipment;
•acquiring, constructing, equipping, and furnishing new school and athletic and support facilities;
•renovating, extending, adding to, repairing, upgrading, updating, and improving existing school sites and facilities, including fine arts, exercise/training rooms, physical education and athletic and support facilities improvements, playground updates, parking lot improvements, paving, painting and flooring updates, schoolwide HVAC updates, and enclosing open-air walkways for safety and security purposes;
•acquiring maintenance and security vehicles, maintenance equipment, and new buses;
•acquiring administrative and instructional technology/communications equipment, textbooks and textbook related materials, including e-books, and grounds maintenance and kitchen equipment;
•acquiring equipment and furnishings, including student furniture and band and athletic uniforms and equipment;
•demolition and site work (collectively, the projects); and/or
•paying capitalized interest and/or costs of issuing the bonds;
“And shall a one percent sales and use tax for educational purposes be imposed in the Thomaston-Upson County School District for a period of time not to exceed 20 calendar quarters and for the raising of not more than $28 million for the following purposes:
•paying a portion of the principal of and interest on the bonds;
•paying all or a portion of the costs of the projects;
•paying capitalized interest on the bonds?”
The notice continues, “If the [tax] is approved by voters… proceeds… to be received by the school district in the maximum amount of $28 million shall be used to make principal and interest payments on the bonds and to pay for a portion of the costs of the projects.
“The [school district] may issue general obligation debt in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $25 million… The maximum rate or rates of interest on such debt shall not exceed seven percent per annum and the principal to be paid in each year during the life of the bonds shall be as follows:
“The [school district] may issue general obligation debt in an aggregate amount that is less than $25 million and reduce the principal amounts maturing that are shown above.”
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