Mitchell County voters say yes to SPLOST - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Mitchell County voters say yes to SPLOST

September 19, 2006

Mitchell County--  We've got results from sales tax votes throughout south Georgia, the most anticipated were possibly in Mitchell County.

People there are sharply divided over how education money should be spent. Critics say school leaders' plan will exclude some students. 846 voters said yes to a referendum that's geared towards rebuilding schools and getting new technology in Mitchell County. However, 499 voters said no to the tax, some due to what they call unanswered questions.

It's an issue that lasted even up to voting day.  Voters in Mitchell County spent the hours deciding the fate of a SPLOST referendum that supports education. Most voters gave it the o.k. "I think it will help our schools," says voter Betty Saxon.

But the referendum didn't get the approval of many people, including former Mitchell County superintendent Bobby Tapp. "The citizens of this county just have not been informed," says Tapp.

Tapp is part of the Citizens for Truth in E-SPLOST funding, a group that questions the merits of the tax. "Where the money will go, how it will be spent and who will benefit from it. All of the students of the county or just a portion of the students in the county," says Tapp.

Tapp says the greatest concern is the Baconton Charter School.  He says the school's more than 650 students were used to get grant money from the state but will not benefit from sales tax revenue. "The Mitchell County Board of Education has indicated that the Baconton Charter School would get none of this. Well if that's the case, why count them one way and not the other way?," says Tapp.

Current Mitchell County School Superintendent Beauford Hicks now says that's not the case. "We have a program and plan in place that will benefit all kids in the district," says Hicks.

When asked to clarify if that included the Baconton Charter School, Hicks once again said, "All students will benefit from expenditures in some way or the other."

But there is a priority list for the 14-million dollars the tax will bring in.  That includes building a new elementary school and repaying the school system's bond debt. Some voters left precincts feeling sure that all students will benefit from the sales tax.

"I feel confident in the board members," says voter Tracy. Others will keep a close eye to make sure.

"Oh yes, it'll be monitored. I'm sure," says Tapp.  

Tapp also isn't sure if it's necessary to build a new school right now. He says when he was superintendent, the system purchased enough acres of land to add wings to other school buildings if more space was needed.

The sales tax should generate about 14-million dollars over a five year period. The money will be divided between Mitchell County and Pelham city schools based on the number of enrolled students.

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