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SPLOST tax could be on September ballot

By Greg Gelpi

The fall marks the opening of three new schools in Clayton County and voters could be asked to fund the building of six more.

The Clayton County Board of Education held a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax workshop to discuss its current 1-cent SPLOST and its proposed extension.

The maintenance department and other departments proposed a list of projects for the tax extension.

Six new schools would be constructed, including three elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school for a total of about 416 new classrooms. The total cost of the SPLOST projects would be more than $263 million with projects at each of the county's 53 schools as well as several administrative buildings.

The SPLOST would also fund the renovation or addition of 233 classrooms.

The school system has 609 trailers in use as classrooms, 69 of which are used to house students during construction to schools, Director of Maintenance James Conard said. That number could nearly double if the SPLOST isn't extended and new schools and classrooms constructed.

A SPLOST extension would also fund a number of technology and transportation requests in addition to the construction, additions and renovations of classrooms.

The school board will consider the school system's proposal for extending the SPLOST at its next regular business meeting scheduled for July 12, said Brian Miller, the director of facility auxiliary services, purchasing and risk management. The proposal has the voters considering the sales tax during a Sept. 21 election.

Collections of taxes continue to trail the projected collections for the current SPLOST, but the sluggish economy kept the costs of construction down at the same time.

The school system anticipates a $37.8 million shortfall in projected collections and being $25.6 million under budget for costs of projects.

The collections for the past two months have been improving with the improving economy, Miller said.

With its first SPLOST, a three-year sales tax, Smith Elementary School and Roberts Middle School were constructed.

Through its five-year SPLOST, the school system is trying to keep pace with the swelling numbers of students in the growing county.

"We're doing what we said we were going to do," Conard said. "We've kept up with our promise."

The school system opened King Elementary School and Jackson Elementary School in August and will open Kemp Primary School, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School and a new Jonesboro Middle School in the fall.

The system opened nine schools with the SPLOST, including Mundy's Mill High School, the first high school constructed in the county in 11 years.