Education

Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce puts full support behind E-SPLOST

Bibb County Superintendent Curtis Jones talks with Baldwin County Superintendent Noris Price prior to addressing the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning at the Douglass Theatre.
Bibb County Superintendent Curtis Jones talks with Baldwin County Superintendent Noris Price prior to addressing the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning at the Douglass Theatre. jvorhees@macon.com

The Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce announced full support Tuesday of the Bibb County school district’s efforts to renew the one-cent penny sales tax for education.

At the chamber’s Good Morning Macon event, Superintendent Curtis Jones talked about the importance of passing another special purpose local option sales tax dedicated to education -- commonly called E-SPLOST -- and how it is essential to upgrading the school system’s infrastructure. He said infrastructure upgrades will lead to student success.

“Victory in our schools, I believe, is something that our parents want to achieve in all our public schools,” he said. He added that making progress in education is “not a science, and we’re going to make some mistakes along the way,” but he said the district will find its way through trial and error.

In response to a question about past mismanagement of E-SPLOST funds, Jones acknowledged the public’s concern and asked for the public’s trust.

An audit of the school system released in February 2014 questioned millions of dollars in technology upgrades under former Superintendent Romain Dallemand. Almost $20 million worth came from one-cent sales tax revenue.

“It’s going to take trust,” Jones said. “It’s going to take trust between the community and the school system.”

Jones said the new E-SPLOST plan was developed with the help of community surveys, forums and a team from across the state offering advice and suggestions about the school system’s most crucial needs.

The E-SPLOST, if passed, is projected to provide about $180 million for various projects.

The school district’s wish list of E-SPLOST projects includes: consolidating Appling Middle School and Northeast High School to a shared campus, a new elementary school, technology upgrades, some renovations to existing facilities to improve energy efficiency and handicap accessibility as well as the purchase of school buses.

“I think that the E-SPLOST is critically important for the improvement efforts for K-12 education,” said Mike Dyer, president of the Macon chamber, adding that the whole community “realizes we need to do that.” He said the full board of the Macon chamber recently voted to support the E-SPLOST.

Jones said the school board would have ultimate oversight of the penny-on-the-dollar sales tax. He also said a committee -- made up of members from the public -- would be appointed by the board to provide recommendations and suggestions.

“You have a board of education that has changed,” he said, adding the board has hired a superintendent who knows E-SPLOST.

Jones pointed to his own past successes with E-SPLOST during his previous superintendent job at Griffin-Spalding County schools and what Bibb has accomplished with each E-SPLOST since 2000.

Dyer commended Jones on being “transparent” and “inclusive” with his strategies for improving the district.

“I think the goal that’s been set by the board of education -- have a 90 percent graduation rate by 2025 -- is a good stretch goal for them and one that we really want to support and help them achieve,” Dyer said. “And I think having first-class facilities is the way to do that. We’ve got to put our kids in a safe environment and (E-SPLOST) goes a long ways to accomplishing that.”

The E-SPLOST referendum will be on the ballot for voters to decide on Nov. 3. Early voting starts Oct. 5.

Bibb schools' planned E-SPLOST project list:

The planned project list that would be covered by the 2015 E-SPLOST in Bibb County includes:

• Consolidation of Appling Middle and Northeast High schools to a shared campus, including construction of an auditorium on the shared campus.

• A new elementary school.

• Renovations to existing facilities, including improvements to energy efficiency, playgrounds and handicap-accessibility.

• Construction of auditoriums at Rutland and Westside high schools.

• Purchase of school buses, vehicles and transportation equipment.

• Safety and security improvements throughout the district, including controlled access entrances.

• A campus police facility.

• Athletic improvements.

• Capital outlay projects for charter schools.

Source: Bibb County schools

To contact writer David Schick, call 744-4382 or find him on Twitter@davidcschick.

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