ALBANY, Ga. — Dougherty County School Superintendent Joshua Murfree thanked voters and lauded supporters for helping pass the ESPLOST (STEP III) referendum in this past Tuesday’s election.
The sales tax, also known as Special Tax for Education Progress III, will last for five years or until it generates $100 million in revenue, whichever comes first.
Murfree, speaking at a news conference at the school administration building on Thursday, said he wanted to “express my heartfelt gratitude to those citizen voters who support the future of education for our children by passing the SPLOST STEP III initiative.
“I believe you have sent a message that the education of children is more important than personal vendettas and leadership bashing.”
According to unofficial numbers, 8,921 votes — or 58.7 percent of votes cast on the question — were in favor of renewing the one-percent sales tax for the school system, while 6,278 votes — or 41.3 percent — voted against it.
Murfree then took a swipe at the local media, which opposed the sales tax option based on past actions of school leadership.
“I want you to know that people in our state’s capital have told us that we work in the only community in the state where the media encouraged a “No” vote for an education SPLOST,” Murfree said. “They did so on the basis of a few management issues that were being attended to by our staff and board instead of considering the great work that has been accomplished for our children through past SPLOST efforts and the potential for real improvement and technological advancement that will be provided by the continuation of a one cent sales tax — not a new tax, but a vote for renewal and progress.”
The vote allows the board to go ahead with construction and capital projects, maintenance and other programs. If the referendum had failed, it would have been at least two years until the measure could be put before the voters again.
“This one percent of purchase money will allow the continuation of renovation and remodeling work in all four of our high schools and in middle and elementary schools scheduled for upgrades,” Murfree said.
“Our transportation will be enhanced through bus purchases and maintenance facility upgrades. Technology, computers, will be vastly improved by the infusion of these funds as other funding sources for such purchases have been reduced to the point of having to furlough employees to keep operations and classroom instruction as strong as possible.”
The $100 million provisional STEPIII project list includes:
— $73,600,000 STEP priority Phase II renovations for instructional improvements, including $14,300,000 for Dougherty High, $13,500,000 for Monroe High and $11,500,000 for Albany High;
— $10,000,000 for technology in the classroom;
— $10,200,000 for safety and security equipment and miscellaneous projects;
— $6,200,000 for vehicle/equipment replacement, including $5,000,000 for buses, departmental trucks, vans and sedans.