Voters in Dawson County have approved extending a 1-cent sales tax for another five years to pay for improvements at local public schools.
The Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, also called E-SPLOST V, is expected to generate $36.5 million for the school district. This is the fifth time voters have approved the tax.
In a special election held Tuesday, March 17, more than 83 percent of participants voted in favor of E-PLOST, with about 16 percent voting against.
Of Dawson Countys 14,972 registered voters, a total of 477, cast ballots in the election.
That equals a voter turnout of about three percent.
Many people I talked to told me the didnt know about the election, Dawson County Election Chair Glenda Ferguson said. It would have been a better turnout if it were done during a primary or regular election year.
The special election ballot had only one question on it.
When there are other questions on the ballot, turnout does tend to be higher, Ferguson said. Some people I talked to said they saw the cancellation of the municipal election and assumed the whole thing was cancelled.
Of those who did vote, nearly 49 percent voted early.
Voting early has always been popular in Dawson County, she said.
And because of the high number who do, the elections board consolidated its precincts dropping from eight to three saving taxpayers approximately $16,000 per each major election.
The money we saved has been significant, Ferguson said.
Dawson County School Superintendent Damon Gibbs said the money will create additional educational opportunities.
We look forward to the wonderful education opportunities that will be provided to the students of Dawson County over the next five years as a result of the outpouring of support, he said.
Money will go toward a performing arts center at the high school, new classroom space, technology that includes tablets and laptops for students, the purchase of school buses, renovating and repairing existing school buildings, and acquiring miscellaneous new equipment, fixtures and furnishings, as well as safety and security equipment.
That money is very restrictive in how it can be spent, Gibbs said. It cannot be used to pay salaries or benefits.
Dawson County has a longstanding tradition of supporting the school system and the children of this community, Gibbs said. The support of E-SPLOST V is one more example of the overwhelming confidence our community places in our school system and our board of education."
The high schools performing arts center will feature a 1,000-seat auditorium for performing arts. It will be built where the schools tennis courts are located and close to the gym.
E-SPLOST funds are collected and distributed by the Georgia Department of Revenue.
We are currently receiving E-SPLOST revenue from the 2011 E-SPLOST VI, Dawson County Director of Financial Services, Jamie Ulrich, said. The new E-SPLOST V begins when the current one ends. There will not be a lapse in revenue.