Politics & Government

School sales tax passed by Bibb County voters

Some Bibb County teachers’ prayers were answered Tuesday.

Bibb County voters approved the collection of an extra penny of sales tax on the dollar that would raise up to $198.5 million to build five new elementary schools and fund a number of other school upgrades across the county.

The vote was 4,400 to 2,640, with about 9 percent of Bibb County voters casting a ballot, according to election officials.

“There were a lot of prayers going out,” Heard Elementary School principal Sandra Stanley said earlier Tuesday. All 45 of her teachers voted in favor of the 1-cent sales tax, she said, since rebuilding that school was one of the proposed projects.

Parts of Heard date to 1917, with additions built in 1933, 1948, 1954 and the most recent gymnasium built in 1990.

Tuesday’s vote means no more leaky roof and, in time, students learning in a modern facility, Stanley said.

“We will have a high performance school and a lot of new technology,” she added. “Right now, we’re really hurting in that area.”

As a result of Tuesday’s vote, shoppers in Bibb County will continue to pay 6 cents on the dollar in sales tax starting in January 2011 through the end of 2015 — or until the $198.5 million has been collected. The school system plans to spend about $176 million on about 30 school projects. The difference allows for such factors as cost overruns.

Chief among the projects is rebuilding Heard for about $14.7 million.

The school now uses 12 trailers for classrooms. It has 630 students and was built to hold about 350.

Four other new elementary schools also will be built for about $15 million each. Those facilities will replace aging buildings at Barden, Bernd, Jones, Morgan, Porter and Rice elementaries.

Also planned are numerous athletics facility upgrades, including the addition of field houses at four high schools, soccer fields and tennis courts at all high schools and other track resurfacing and field upgrades, at a cost of more than $10 million.

Schools such as Northeast High use a chorus room as a weight room, and Howard High uses a Junior ROTC classroom for football players to lift weights in.

School renovation projects are also planned for Williams, Union, Brookdale, Carter, King-Danforth and Alexander II Magnet elementary schools, Appling Middle and Westside High School.

Purchasing new buses for $8.5 million and about $20 million in new technology across the system is also planned.

“Children are in good hands in Bibb County with people who care about them and voted on their behalf,” Superintendent Sharon Patterson said. “I feel absolutely jubilant for the community and school system and the children who will reap the benefits.”

This fall, school construction officials brought the Bibb County school board $218 million in school repair needs, but officials whittled down the costs to $176 million, keeping the economy in mind.

This is the third penny-sales-tax campaign for the school system in recent years.

Voters approved a $165 million campaign in 2005 that rebuilt Central and Southwest high schools, among other projects. A capital improvement program in 2000 also raised $150 million that built a central kitchen and Rutland Middle and High schools, among other projects.

School referendums were successful elsewhere across Middle Georgia on Tuesday. One proposal passed in Upson County 1,089 to 471, and another one in Pulaski County passed 610 to 183.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.