New ag facilities on tap if E-SPLOST is approved
Technology upgrades at every school, new buses, and upgrades to the Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) facilities are the main goals of the Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on the ballot for November 3rd, according to school board chairman Tucker Green.
The current E-SPLOST is expected to raise approximately $30 million by the time it expires at the end of its five-year run on December 31st, 2021. With the new E-SPLOST (which will be voted on in the November 3rd election and go into effect January 1, 2022), school officials are hoping to collect $35 million from the one penny sales tax. Those funds would go towards new technology at each of the system’s schools, new buses, and upgrades to many schools, including the more than 20 year old high school. Green also said a new agriculture facility is planned for both Pickens High School and Pickens Junior High School, which currently does not have any facility for their agriculture program.
“This is a continuation of the current E-SPLOST and not a new tax,” Green said.
Green said the sales tax helps to keep the system’s bus fleet updated with new buses, without having some that are decades old still in use. Green said the school system purchases approximately six new buses each year with sales tax money to “keep our fleet from getting too old.”
The school board chairman said the approximate age of many of the buses in the system’s current fleet are now around 10 years old.
Green said the major projects the system has planned if voters approve the continued sales tax is “to do some type of work at the high school.” The building, completed in the late 1990s, is over 20 years old and “we want to do a remodel and upgrade like we did at the junior high with new flooring, new LED lighting, new doors, technology upgrades, new cameras - basically kind of redoing the entire interior,” he said.
Green said many of the schools have parking areas that need redoing also.
“Another big project would be CTAE projects and facilities,” he said. “I know one big area we are planning is with agriculture facilities. The junior high doesn’t have any ag facilities at all and the high school facilities need some stuff.”
Green pointed out the high school currently has an ag barn and a greenhouse but “they’ve outgrown the barn. The program they have has gotten so big they need more room and more space. The shows they do they don’t have much room for spectators at all.” Green said the board is working with ag advisors to figure out exactly what their needs are.
“We are looking at more of a true ag facility - not just a barn,” he said.
Green said Gilmer County High School has a great facility that includes a pen area, show ring and even a cannery.
“I would expect (from the sales tax) that we would spend a few million dollars in that area - CTAE.”
“The biggest things we can do with the sales tax money is for buses, technology, and upgrading and modernizing a lot of our facilities,” Green said.