The Dawson County Board of Education has big hopes for what it believes will be a great boon to its students.
The board voted unanimously during its November meetings to put its fifth education local option sales tax, or ELOST, before Dawson County voters.
"We are currently under [ELOST] IV, which is set to run through March 2016," said Dawson County School Superintendent Damon Gibbs. "As of October 2014, we are $1.5 million ahead of collections and the ELOST runs either a number of months or until you hit the amount in the referendum, which was $30 million."
Voters approved a five-year extension of the 1-cent sales tax in November 2009, which passed with 77.7 percent of the vote and was projected to generate about $30 million over five years.
Once the amount cap is hit, the board must stop collections in the quarter that the goal was reached.
"We only have two options to have a referendum before the voters next year, and that is in March and in November," said Gibbs. "We could be at the end of our collections if we wait until November. It makes the most sense at this point to put it on the ballots for March."
The board took the first step to putting the ELOST referendum on the ballots for March 17 by taking a vote during its Nov. 4 meeting. The next steps include submitting the ballot question to ballot builders, notify local media and residents, and, if the referendum is approved, hold a final meeting within five days of the referendum to declare approval.
The ELOST would allow the school system to use the funds for building works, including repair and renovations, acquiring land for school projects, equipment such as tablets and computers for students, fleet maintenance and, new to ELOST V, acquire books, digital resources and other media for students.
Also, should the referendum pass, the board plans to immediately bond out $15 million of the projected $36.5 million for a performing arts center located at Dawson County High School.
"Our major project is a 1,000 seat auditorium performing arts center. It will house art, drama, chorus and band," Gibbs said. "We have been planning this for some time and we have initial design and concepts."
Currently, the high school has a stage inside of the main building where the drama department performs. The chorus and band rooms are also connected to practice areas with the art gallery located in a small room adjacent to the practice rooms.
"This building will house four programs. It is planned to go where the tennis courts currently are, adjacent to the gymnasium," Gibbs said. "The stage will sit in the back of the auditorium with hallways and rooms connecting dressing rooms in the back and stage entrance. It's going to be a beautiful facility."
Not only will the building be used for performances, but it will also house classrooms for each program, as well as practice rooms.
"I think this is going to be a fantastic building," Gibbs said. "If the referendum is approved, we are hoping to break ground on this building in the summer of 2015. Our goal is to open this building in August of 2016."