Dougherty County School System Public Information Director R.D. Harter made a presentation to Darton College D.I.R.T. members Thursday in which he explained the workings of the proposed STEPIII measure which will be on the ballot in next month's election.
ALBANY — Dougherty County School System Public Information Director R. D. Harter told Darton College D.I.R.T (Democrat, Independent, Republican Team) members that the proposed ESPLOST (Education Special Purpose Optional Sales Tax) on next month’s ballot is “a fair tax because it affects everybody who spends money in Dougherty County.”
As an administrator in the Dougherty public school system, Harter stressed that he could neither advocate for or against the one cent tax option, but said he was there to educate the students.
STEP III (Sales Tax for Educational Purposes), if approved by voters, is projected to generate up to $100 million in funding over the next five years.
“This money cannot be used for people, salaries or raises,” Harter said. “It can only be used for capital improvements.”
The funding will be used to renovate older schools for instructional purposes, increase technology in the classroom, implement safety and security improvements and replace again vehicles and other instruction-related equipment.
“This is not a new tax, but a continuation of one that has existed for the past 10 years,” Harter said. “What many also do not realize is that the ESPLOST reduces the overall tax liability of the residents of Dougherty County. More than 40 percent of the money generated will come from people who live outside of the county.”
If approved, STEP III will go into effect in October of 2012 when the current STEP expires. To begin work on STEP III projects immediately, the DCSS would issue bonds along with the STEP vote. Payments for these bonds will be made from STEP instead of from property taxes.
The $100 million provisional STEPIII project list includes:
$73.6 million STEP priority Phase II renovations for instructional improvements, including $14.3 million for Dougherty High, $13.5 million for Monroe High and $11.5 million for Albany High;
$10 million for technology in the classroom;
$10.2 million for safety and security equipment and miscellaneous projects;
$6.2 million for vehicle/equipment replacement, including $5 million for buses, departmental trucks, vans and sedans.