Houston County voters will get their say Tuesday on whether to extend a 1-cent sales tax to benefit public schools.
The vote is the fifth of its kind in the county, and Superintendent Mark Scott said the community's relationship with the school system makes it easier to pitch the plan's virtues during presentations around the county.
"It's been going really well," he said. "We're fortunate to be in a community that really supports education."
The projects this time around will include intrusion alarms at 39 schools and fire protection upgrades at 31 schools.
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Those projects are clearly among the most important ones, Scott said.
"You want to make sure that equipment is going to work when you need it to work."
In addition, the district hopes to continue heating and air updates that began under the current education sales tax initiative, as well as reroofing the career academy, constructing a multipurpose building at Northside High School and renovating several of the high schools' theaters.
Additionally, it's expected that Veterans High School will need to be expanded, and another elementary school will be needed in the eastern portion of the county.
The last ESPLOST has brought in about $110 million. That's less than the projected $125 million for the five-year cycle, which is partially due to a change in the way vehicle purchases are taxed.
Still, Scott said the projects were budgeted conservatively because the projection was always viewed more as a maximum rather than a guarantee.
"I don't believe that the board back in 2011 set out thinking they were going to collect the whole amount on that," he said.
Overall, the four previous efforts have led to about 1.6 million square feet of new classroom and office space and another 1 million square feet of renovations, but Scott said the average age of Houston County school buildings is still about 30 years.
The measure again has the support of the Committee for Excellence in Education, which formed in 1997. Jimmy Autry, the committee's chairman, has been a part of the last four ESPLOST initiatives, and he said the group was expected to complete 40 presentations to local organizations ahead of Tuesday's vote.
"Everything's doing real well," he said.
He said that the committee has taken out online advertisements through various outlets and that most of the feedback has been positive.
"Every once in a while, I'll get a negative Facebook comment, but not much," Autry said, noting that he didn't know of any organized opposition to the measure.
The last two Houston County ESPLOST efforts have passed with more than 70 percent of voters approving of the plan. Autry said he's hoping for the same this time around, adding that the quality of the Houston County school system and its board were among the reasons he supported the plan.
"The school board has been incredibly good stewards of the funds that we've given them."
The most recent ESPLOST vote brought about projects such as a new stadium near Houston County High School, renovations at the same school and a new Langston Road Elementary School.
If passed, the next cycle of sales tax collections would begin next March.
"The best part of it is, they do what they say they're going to do," Autry said.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.