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BOE ready to build performing arts center
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The Dawson County Board of Education will soon have $15 million in hand to begin school improvements.

With part of special purpose local option sales tax funds for education, the board plans to immediately bond out $15 million of the projected $36.5 million for a performing arts center on the campus of Dawson County High School.

The main part of the current ESPLOST V bonds will spend $13 million on the new high school performing arts center.

"Our major project for this ESPLOST is a 1,000 seat auditorium performing arts center. It will house art, drama, chorus and band," said School Superintendent Damon Gibbs. "We have been planning this for some time and we have an initial design and concepts."

Currently, the high school has a stage inside 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."

The remaining funds from the $15 million bonds will be used for various projects around the system.

"We will also be doing upgrades to some of our facilities. We also have $500,000 for technology upgrades from this first set of bond money," said Director of Financial Services Jamie Ulrich." We've also got $500,000 for electronic media. We were able to put in media books into the language this year. That is a great help for us."

Other projects for this ESPLOST also include software purchases and a new, lighted tennis court to replace the courts being removed for the performing arts center.

The bond transactions and sales will be closed on May 28. Funds will then be transferred to the Dawson County school system to begin its projects.

The board heard from Todd Barnes with Raymond James Financial during its May board meeting to sign off on documents to begin sales of the ESPLOST bonds.

"The Dawson County School System currently has a ‘AA-' rating with Standards and Poor's. The AA category is an excellent rating for a school district," Barnes said. "They spoke very highly of your strong financial position and management, particularly through the very difficult economic times this district has experienced in the past five years."

Sale for $15 million in 5-year sales tax bonds for the school system began Monday and is being handled by Raymond James Financial. The school system was given a 1.49 percent interest rate on the bonds, which was a very good rate, according to Barnes.

These bonds will be paid back over the course of the 5-year ESPLOST with collected taxes.

Gibbs met with Northeast Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver to officiate the bonds for sale last week.

Voters approved a new 5-year Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in March of this year. This is Dawson County's fifth ESPLOST.