How valuable are your children?
That's what Tom Dohrmann, superintendent of Columbia County schools, asked the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce's Women in Business Committee lunch meeting audience Wednesday at the West Lake Country Club.
Columbia County school trustees voted Tuesday to put a 1-cent sales tax referendum on the ballot March 18. If voters approve the referendum, the tax is expected to raise about $40 million during the next five years.
He said the county needs the money to offset teacher pay raises as part of a four-year plan by Gov. Zell Miller to give teachers a 6-percent pay raise and non-certified people a 4-percent pay raise. The plan is in its third year, he said.
"I've heard people from all over Columbia County say `We moved here for the schools,' until they get their tax bill," the superintendent said.
The sales tax will ease the property-tax burden, Dr. Dohrmann said.
"With the local-option sales tax, what we're trying to do is shift the burden of taxation for the next five years from your property taxes and houses to sales tax, so all the people who go watch the Masters can help pay the bill," he said.
Dr. Dohrmann spoke about the need for students to be technically adept, effective communicators and personally responsible people as the 21st century moves closer.
He said businesses don't care if job candidates can recite parts of Macbeth; they want to know whether the applicants will be on the job, and whether they are reliable and personally responsible when they get there.
And when it comes to how businesses view education in the area, Columbia and Richmond counties are linked.
"I want to make this statement publicly: So goes Richmond County, so goes Columbia County. .°.°. We're all linked together when people come to locate businesses."
Also at the meeting, the 1997 Women in Business Committee chairwoman took charge. Jan Hooks, corporate accounts executive with Trotter Realty, said the Women in Business Symposium will be Aug. 5 this year.
The symposium is a daylong event that features seminars, workshops and a luncheon speaker that center around business issues of concern to women.