School Splost is on Ballot

By Lake MorrisStaff writer, The Hartwell Sun, August 29, 2013 

The Hart County Board of Education held a called meeting Aug. 22 for the fourth installment of the Special Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax referendum. 

​At the meeting the board unanimously approved putting the referendum on the November ballot. That vote came after a 30-minute discussion with the public, led mostly by Hart County Property Owner Association president Dr. Garry Hamilton. 

​The initial referendum vote was scheduled for the Aug. 12 regular meeting, but contention over wording in the referendum from the HCPOA, specifically Hamilton, caused the board to table to measure until the called meeting. 

In the called meeting, Hart County superintendent Jerry Bell showed the word ‘may’ had been taken out entirely, and now read ‘included, but not limited to.’

Hamilton said while he was happy with the change, the wording could still be better. “I commend you on tightening the language somewhat. But I noticed there is still no assurance that the first three or four items will be the priority,” he said. “My main concern is that I don’t want this to be a giant credit card for the school board to be paid off by the taxpayers.” 

Matt Cardoza, communications director for the Georgia Education Department, said boards do not have to list certain projects before another. 

“However, some of that would depend on the wording they put on the ballot or any informational literature handed out,” Cardoza said. 

​Another problem the HCPOA had was no preliminary figures on building projects the board would like to fund with the SPLOST IV in the original referendum were present. Namely a building, new career, technology and agriculture(CTAE) building and a new gym. 

​Bell provided preliminary estimates for those three projects at the called meeting. 

The agriculture science building has estimated costs between $1-2 million,the CTAE building is projected to be between $2-3 million and the gym between $6-7 million. 

Hamilton said the oversight from the HCPOA wasn’t necessarily to keep the current board in check, but future boards. 

​“This isn’t going to go into effect for a year in a half. In a year and a half I may be dead, Mr. Bell may have another job and two of you may have been eliminated from the board,” Hamilton said.“The trust in you all has nothing to do with it. We could all be dead, I don’t know. There may only be two or three left after all that. It is what is written on the document that matters.”

 District 2 representative Paul Abernathy said it comes down to trust. 

​“I don’t think there is any chance this board is going to propose we do these things, and then, after the people vote, pull the rug out from under them,” he said. “If that were to happen, we would have new board members.”

 Others in the audience, such as Carol Harvey, gave their approval to the board.

 “My daughter started with the new North Hart, she started high school with the new (LonnieBurns Fine Arts Center) and that was all done with SPLOST,” she said. “We are in favor of it.” 

​The referendum now moves to the ballot box to be decided on by the voters this year.  

​Abernathy said the reason was because of the time it takes to get projects completed.

​ “If we were to wait until November of next year, we would start planning after if it ispassed,” he said. “We would probably be looking at 2016 before we started turning any dirt over, and maybe near the end of the SPLOST before we get in some of the buildings.”

 If the measure fails, the board has the option to vote to put it back on the ballot next November.I f it passes, the board has said they would start immediately on planning the projects. 

​Hart County has used SPLOST since 1999, and it runs in five-year increments.  The current SPLOST III ends December of next year. If the SPLOST IV passes, it would take effect January2015.

 Projections have the SPLOST potentially bringing in $18 million at zero percent economic growth.

 A SPLOST is a one cent sales tax. The county’s SPLOST, which is currently SPLOST IV, is different from the BOE’s SPLOST.

​ In other business, the board unanimously accepted a recommendation to name Paul Mallelieu as the athletic trainer. Mallelieu is also the wide receiver coach on the football team.  

​The next regular meeting is Sept. 9.