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SPLOST election to be held Tuesday

By Greg Gelpi

To accommodate increasing enrollment figures, the Clayton County Board of Education will ask voters to consider extending a 1-cent sales tax Tuesday.

The current school Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax expires at the end of the year, and the special election could extend the tax for another five years.

"I can't buy anything for 1 cent," said Sandra Davis, a parent of two children who graduated from Clayton County schools.

Davis said she voted to approve the current SPLOST and would vote to extend the sales tax, adding that she would do anything to "broaden the horizons" of students.

Bernard Todd, who recently moved into the county, said he wasn't aware of the special election, but said he would support the tax if it goes toward what it's supposed to go toward.

If early voting numbers are any indication of Tuesday's turnout, very few will vote, said Annie Bright, Clayton County director of elections and registration.

Bright said there were 650 advanced and absentee ballots cast last week, which included only 45 walk-in voters.

"Only 45 walk-in voters probably means a very low turnout for Tuesday," she said.

The SPLOST would run through 2009 and would not collect more than $269,564,694. If the collections reach that amount before the five years is up, the tax would end early.

School board member Allen T. Johnson is confident that voters will approve the tax.

"When it gets down to the nitty gritty, we still have some very concerned parents of students in the school system," Johnson said. "It's almost a must that it does pass for us to keep on doing what we've been doing.

According to Assistant Superintendent Sam King, enrollment figures have increased by 5,409 students since the 2000 - 2001 school year. As of Sept. 10, the system had 51,617 students and is projected to continue to grow.

As student population has increased, the number of trailers serving as temporary classrooms has also increased.

"I think the people will support (the tax)," Johnson said. "Because of all the new students coming into the county, we've got to put them somewhere. I've always been one that wanted to get rid of the trailers. I feel very strongly about that."

A SPLOST extension would help reduce the number of trailers by constructing three elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school. The tax would also renovate and add on to existing schools, renovate other school facilities, purchase school buses, build a technology department building and make other technology improvements. A total of 416 classrooms would be built with the tax.

Johnson said he didn't even want to think about what would happen if the SPLOST doesn't pass.

News Daily reporter Justin Boron contributed to this story.