In order to start new Bibb County school construction projects right away, the school system is selling $30 million in bonds and promising to begin paying off the bond debt as soon as 2011 sales tax money starts rolling in.
In a 2009 special election, Bibb County voters approved the collection of a sales tax — an extra penny on the dollar — from January 2011 through the end of 2015 that could raise up to $198.5 million for school construction.
First up is more than $10 million in athletic upgrades, including building new field houses at four Bibb high schools as well as soccer fields, softball fields and tennis courts at all county high schools. Track resurfacing for schools and building new middle school storage space are also part of the upgrades.
If school officials did not sell bonds, they would have to wait to start working until spring when enough tax money was collected.
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“This is a very common practice that provides cash flow,” said Bob Flowers, the district’s capital program administrator, who announced he is retiring at the end of the month to work as a consultant in Atlanta.
“The bonds will cover the first couple of projects,” he said.
Thursday, the school board voted 7-1 — board member Susan Sipe opposed — to hire Gilbane Construction of Atlanta to oversee the athletic upgrades. Gilbane was the construction company that led the Central High rebuilding.
But in a separate 4-4 vote, the board denied a recommendation to hire Atlanta-based Robertson Loia Roof Architects for the athletic upgrade design work. Board members Lynn Farmer, Ella Carter, Tom Hudson and Sipe opposed the hiring.
“I would just ask the board to think about their decision because it will have a huge impact,” Sipe said just before the vote. “This is not a local firm.”
The school board agreed to sell the bonds, which carry roughly $3 million in interest, over the next five years.
The district is wrapping up its 2005 capital improvement program which built new Central and Southwest high schools, Howard High, Ingram-Pye Elementary and Northwoods Academy early childhood center with a penny sales tax collection from 2006. The program will end in December.
New projects to be completed with the sales tax continuation include rebuilding Heard Elementary School off Houston Road and building four new elementary schools to replace aging facilities, as well as $20 million in new technology, which could include Ipods or netbooks for students.
From Oct. 6-8, the school district will host a digital learning and student success expo with six vendors, including Dell and Apple. At the expo different models of technology will be demonstrated for teachers and administrators who will have some say in future purchases, according to school officials.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.