EDITORIAL: Bibb County schools want your input on the next ESPLOST

The Bibb County School system held its second of what may be many public community sessions about its upcoming November vote on another ESPLOST on Wednesday at Howard High School. The first was Tuesday at Southwest. The present one-penny tax will expire at the end of the year. The system has vaguely identified some of the projects it would like to undertake in the next five years. One of the major ones is combining Northeast High School and Appling Middle School, which would make it similar to the facilities at Rutland and Howard. Southwest and Central both have relatively new campuses funded by the 2005 ESPLOST.

The district has also identified other projects the ESPLOST would pay for, such as auditoriums at Rutland and Westside high schools as well as a combined bus and campus police facility. Stakeholders are invited to take a survey on the home page of the district’s website or go to www.surveymonkey.com/r/bibbesplostprojects2015.

Many of the questions are necessarily vague. When the board locks in the final list of projects, the list is locked down for a vote. While there is some flexibility when there is excess revenue or the measure doesn’t raise the estimated amount, there is little wiggle room.

There are a couple of issues the plan should address. When the vote is taken, there will be at least two open and operating charter schools in the Bibb system, Academy for Classical Education and Macon Charter Academy. These are public schools and the school board needs parents to state the needs of those schools, too. Board member Lester Miller has already voiced his support of that idea, unfortunately only in a ploy to get the ESPLOST passed. That said, it doesn’t mean those charter schools should be left out on a limb by themselves. They are not private schools and are supported by our tax dollars and should be part of any ESPLOST conversation.

The other thing the board needs to figure out is how to share the largess of the district with the total community as the county and the Macon Housing Authority have managed to do on their major construction projects. The board has spent more than $450 million since 2000 and is the only major entity without a minority inclusion program. They need the will to create one.

Bibb County voters have a wonderful record of supporting the school system’s efforts to improve facilities, and while ESPLOST money cannot be used for operational costs, it’s time the system give back to the community better academic results. While bricks and mortar are important, higher graduation rates and school climate scores are the real keys to future success for this community.