Originally created 08/21/05

Growth surpasses board's 5-year capital outlay plan

It took the Columbia County School System only three years to outgrow its five-year plan.

Each Georgia school system is required to develop a five-year plan, called a capital outlay plan, specifying its projected growth and building needs.

Columbia County developed its current capital outlay plan in 2002 but is asking the state Department of Education for permission to submit another plan two years early.

"We know we're going to have to build some new schools, and we're not on the pecking list to get state funds that will allow us to build those schools," school board Vice Chairman Wayne Bridges said. "We'd have to do something else - local money, more bonds and things like that."

The school board recently sent a resolution to the Georgia DOE asking to devise a new plan for 2005 through 2010.

Superintendent Tommy Price said the DOE will likely honor the request.

Enrollment in the county has grown by more than 1,500 pupils since the last plan was submitted, Mr. Price said. Developers have registered plans for more than 40 new subdivisions with the Columbia County Planning Department, and about half of those are already up for final approval.

A new capital outlay plan will account for those new pupils and projected growth and will provide the system with guidelines for future growth.

The current plan calls for building a new middle school, which might begin construction next year, Mr. Price said. No other building projects are left on the plan.

Mr. Price predicts a new plan will include another middle school, two elementary schools and a high school.

"In order to apply for state funds we've earned, those projects have to be in our plan," Mr. Price said.

"We already need to apply for a new elementary school, but we don't have one recorded. We've got to keep it current, so when we're ready to apply, the plan correlates with what we're wanting to do."

Currently, the system has about $6 million in its building fund, all of which will be used to build a new middle school, Mr. Price said.

Even with a new capital outlay plan in place, there still won't be enough money from state coffers to cover the county's construction costs.

"The state capital outlay program has never fully funded any of these new schools," the superintendent said.

"It pays about 40 to 50 percent at best. We're paying the rest with (1-cent sales tax) dollars. It's been that way forever. You just can't build schools as efficiently as the state seems to think you can."

Reach Donnie Fetter at 868-1222, ext. 113, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

Wish list

Columbia County schools' building needs:

- An elementary school in the Evans area

- An elementary school in the Grovetown area

- A middle school in the Martinez area

- A high school in the Evans area

What's Next: The Columbia County Board of Education submitted a resolution asking the Georgia Department of Education to update its five-year capital outlay plan two years early. The board will submit information on pupils' enrollment and projected growth. A group of other system superintendents and facility managers will then review the plan, visit the system and make recommendations.


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