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TCSS discusses March special election vote on E-SPLOST

On Monday, the Troup County School Board discussed calling for a special election in March so that citizens can vote on whether or not to continue the school system’s one cent education special purpose local option sales tax (E-SPLOST).

The election would occur March 16, 2021, and if approved by voters the SPLOST would start in July 2022. It would be a special election because there are no other planned elections in the spring. E-SPLOST VI, if approved, is expected to bring in $80 million, and is limited to that total, according to board attorney Greg Ellington.

If the board approves the referendum on Thursday, then it would be sent to Troup County Elections Supervisor Andrew Harper before going to the secretary of state’s office to ask for a special election. The board vote on Thursday would also solidify the language that will appear on the referendum. 

TCSS is currently in year four of a five-year E-SPLOST. 

E-SPLOST cannot be used to pay for salaries and is instead used for capital improvements, such as safety and security updates, major renovations and repairs, new construction, heating ventilation and air conditions updates, roof replacements, bus replacements, technology upgrades, textbooks, vehicle replacements, land purchases and paving. 

“I don’t know how you would run a school system without a SPLOST these days,” said Board Chairman Kirk Hancock. “… It’s an absolutely critical funding element for the school system.”

The referendum would also allow TCSS to borrow $40 million of the expected $80 million in SPLOST collections ahead of time, if needed. 

Hancock said TCSS will go over specific ways it plans to use the funding in the months ahead. 

The board will vote on the referendum on Thursday. 

TCSS will also vote on whether or not to purchase 10 school buses on Thursday night. 

Superintendent Brian Shumate is recommending that the board approve the purchase of two 84-passenger school buses at $130,000 each and eight 72-passenger buses for $92,500 each from Yancey Bus Sales and Service. 

In all, the ten buses would cost $1 million.

The buses are Blue Bird brand, and Transportation Director Chip Giles said TCSS has had a lot of success with Blue Bird.

The school system currently has 165 buses and 42 percent are over 15 years old, which is the industry standard for replacing buses. 

“For us to get back on track so that all of our buses are younger than 15 years old, we will have to purchase 11 buses a year for 15 consecutive years,” Giles said. 

The buses will be paid for with bus bonds totaling $154,440 and budgeted transportation funds totaling $845,560.