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VOICES 04 hears positive SPLOST feedback

By Greg Gelpi

Cedric Wilkinson isn't "a big fan of taxes," but sees no choice to support the vote on the upcoming school tax. He sees it as support for his daughter, a student at Suder Elementary School.

With only weeks to go until the special election, the committee spearheading efforts to extend the school system's 1-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is confident of its passing.

"It seems to have a lot of support from the parents," said Lee Scott, co-chairman of Visions of Improving Clayton's Education System (VOICES) 04, the committee campaigning for the SPLOST. "It seems that a lot of the parents don't want their children in trailers."

Clayton County voters will consider extending the 1-cent sales tax for another five years during a special election Sept. 21. According to the referendum, the revenue from the SPLOST would fund the construction of three elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school.

The new schools, along with renovations and additions at existing schools, would help reduce the number of trailers in the school system that serve as temporary classrooms.

"I'm probably going to vote for it, although I have no choice," Wilkinson said. "I would like to lower sales taxes, but I know the schools need it."

The trailers don't seem to provide a safe environment and classes are already "pushing it to the max" on class size, he said.

"Certainly what (parents) have been saying is that we need to upgrade our schools and put students back in the classroom, not in the trailers," Scott said, adding that students are being treated like "second-class" students. "Who's going to be against children, and who's going to be against keeping taxes the same?"

He stressed that the special election is to keep taxes the same by extending the exiting sales tax, which expires Dec. 31, not the passing of a new tax.

The Clayton County Education Association anticipates endorsing the SPLOST, said CCEA President Sid Chapman.

The Clayton County Coalition for Quality Education will not be taking a position on the tax, President Mary Baker said.

Not everyone, though, favors the SPLOST.

The Clayton County Libertarian Party mounted concerted efforts against the SPLOST when it was last brought before voters and continues to oppose the tax, party member Doug Craig said.

"As much as we would like to see it not pass, we don't feel that the school system deserves it," Craig said.

He added that many in the county don't realize the impact of a SPLOST on companies, such as Delta Air Lines, "teetering on the edge" of bankruptcy.

Through telephone banks, fliers and mail outs, VOICES 04 is informing voters of the need to continue the sales tax and gathering support to get to the polls, Scott said.

Craig countered, though, that there is a deliberate effort to keep the turnout low, since a low turnout favors the passing of the SPLOST.

"They're keeping it low-key," Craig said. "The people who need to know about it know."

By having a special election, only government employees will go to the polls, and they will likely support the tax, he said.

The SPLOST will also fund other school system projects, including a new building for the system's technology department and other technology improvements.