Twiggs voters asked to renew school sales tax

mstucka@macon.comApril 20, 2014 

Twiggs County voters will consider extending a sales tax that helps the county’s schools.

The education special purpose local option sales tax would run for as much as five years, or until it raised $4.3 million. Much of that money would be used to fix some basic problems with school buildings, said Terralon Chaney, chairwoman of the Twiggs County Board of Education. The election is May 20.

“The heating and air company’s in the school system every day, or you have trash cans to catch all the leaks,” she said. “It’s time to change those things. We really need our community to support our school district. Those are our schools, our children.”

Chaney said the heating and air-conditioning repairs are needed at Twiggs County Middle-High School. Separately, Jeffersonville Elementary School would get a gym. When the weather’s bad now, students have gym class in their classrooms, or teachers find other ways to keep the students physically active, such as teaching dancing.

The gym would be big enough to provide a practice area for basketball teams, and it would be big enough to allow junior varsity and middle school teams to play in the facility, according to information sent by the school system.

The ESPLOST would also renovate the existing high school gym, upgrade schools’ computers; buy textbooks and classroom furniture; and pay for new school buses.

Chaney said if voters approve the ESPLOST, it would continue the extra penny of sales tax on the dollar that’s been in place. The same ballot question would also allow the school system to borrow up to $3 million to begin repairs and purchases earlier, with loans repaid from later ESPLOST proceeds.

Separately, Twiggs County voters will be asked if they’d consider increasing their property taxes by 1 mill to fund a local emergency medical and ambulance service in Twiggs County. State Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, said the ballot question is a nonbinding resolution, basically a straw vote.

“There’s no obligation on the part of local government or anything, other than to just get a pulse of what the voters’ dedication to this concept is,” Epps said.

Epps said Twiggs County residents now get ambulance service through The Medical Center of Central Georgia. He said he couldn’t point to specifics in which people had died because of ambulance delays, but he said delays are common.

“If you’re on the lower portion of this county down where it ties into Laurens or Wilkinson counties, you could easily be looking at an hour and a half before it returns to the emergency room,” he said.

Medical Center officials said in November it wasn’t financially feasible to keep an ambulance in Twiggs County, and they promised to evaluate how much of a subsidy would be needed. The Telegraph requested information on the subsidy but did not receive information by deadline.

Epps said some corporations might partner with the county to help ensure that their workers can get proper medical attention. Many of Twiggs County workers are involved in logging and mining, industries that may have a high rate of accidents, he said.

In Twiggs County, 1 mill of property tax would raise about $229,000. In comparison, Wilkinson County has its own ambulance service, for which it budgeted $402,600 this year.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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