Education sales tax also on Henry ballot

School officials will learn next week whether voters approve of continuing a one-cent sales tax for education in Henry County.

The Henry County Board of Education hopes to continue its Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education (SPLOST), which has been placed on the Tuesday, Nov. 8, ballot as a referendum.

The penny sales tax is applied to all retail sales in Henry County. It was first approved in 1997, and again in 2002 and 2007. However, few citizens have turned out so far to cast their ballots on the issue of continuing the tax as SPLOST IV.

The current SPLOST III is projected to collect as much as $145 million in sales tax revenues over its life, which expires in December 2012, according to Jeff Allie, Henry’s assistant superintendent of financial services.

Allie said the SPLOST IV referendum is projected to generate tax collections up to $225 million over a five-year span that would begin in January 2013.

Revenues collected from SPLOST IV would go to building repairs to 44 existing schools, including classroom additions and renovations to Eagle’s Landing High, Stockbridge High, Eagle’s Landing Middle, and Union Grove Middle. The referendum also indicates that funds would go to technology improvements and school bus replacements.

School officials also said two additional new schools –– Wolf Creek Elementary and Henry County Middle –– would be added to the existing list of capital projects if the funds become available under SPLOST IV.

Henry County election officials pointed out that 1,487 ballots had been cast on the SPLOST IV referendum by mid-day Friday.

“It’s not a high turnout by any means,” said Janet Shellnutt, the director of Henry County Elections and Registration. Shellnutt said she expects voter turnout to be low on Tuesday, because the ballot includes the one question of continuing the SPLOST for Education.

“If we got 10 to 15 percent, I would be surprised,” said the elections director, pointing out that roughly 1.6 percent of the 112,649 active voters in Henry County voted early this fall.

McDonough resident, Jerome Thrash, said he voted in favor of SPLOST. The 54-year-old turned his thoughts to his son, Clifton Mullen, III, a senior at Luella High School in Locust Grove.

“I feel like he and other children deserve a chance to do well, and to help the next generation,” said Thrash. “Education is a vehicle for what people can contribute to the country, as well as the lifestyle that they will have. I don’t think one percent is too much to pay for a better education.”

Connie Moss, 58, of McDonough, said she voted early solely to express her thoughts about SPLOST. She declined to reveal whether she voted for, or against, the proposed tax, choosing instead to let her ballot do the talking for her.

“I wanted to add my opinion,” said Moss.

School officials have expressed their hope to have the tax renewed, in order to move forward with capital projects, like building a new Hampton High School in Hampton. They acknowledge the SPLOST for Education, by law, can only be used for certain capital projects and not for the day-to-day operational expenses of a school district.

To learn more about Henry’s SPLOST for Education referendum, visit www.henry.k12.ga.us.

Staff writer Jason Smith contributed to this article.