Originally created 09/17/02

Residents to vote on 1-cent sales tax



McDuffie County voters will go to the polls today to decide whether they want to extend a 1-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

If approved, the penny tax is expected to raise about $16 million to fund improvements for McDuffie County schools. A "yes" vote by voters would extend the tax for five years.

Voters approved the first special purpose sales tax in 1999 for a period of three years. The current campaign, which will expire Dec. 31, is projected to raise $8.9 million for school improvements.

"The primary purpose for that was for technology improvements, additions to Dearing Elementary School, Maxwell Elementary and Thomson High School - all of those have been done," said Sheilah Johnson, the treasurer of the McDuffie County SPLOST Committee.

The money also has been used to renovate and repair other schools, purchase 14 new buses and acquire 38 acres across from the high school on Whiteoak Road for a new middle school.

If voters approve the continuation of the 1-cent sales tax, the money will be used to build the new middle school, continue technology improvements and install bus canopies at Thomson Middle and Thomson High, in addition to other school maintenance and improvement projects.

"The only way to finance capital improvements other than a sales tax would be to raise property taxes or do a bond referendum, and with a bond you would pay thousands of dollars in interest. With a sales tax you pay as you go," said Don Powers, the chairman of the sales tax committee.

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113, or melhall@augustachronicle.com.