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Posted: March 5, 2013 10:00 p.m.

Education SPLOST voting starts

Early voting has started in the proposed education SPLOST referendum. If approved, the SPLOST will be a continuation of a current 1-cent sales tax that will go toward capital projects and help boost the Newton County School System’s budget.

Early voting for the special election began on Monday, Feb. 25, and is scheduled to run until Friday, March 15.

Donna Morrison with the Newton County Board of Elections, said voters can vote in the special SPLOST referendum Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Newton County Administration Building. She said there will be no early voting at the county’s satellite location at the Porter Memorial Branch Library during this special election.

On Election Day, Tuesday, March 19, voters can vote at all 22 precincts in the county from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the education SPLOST. Morrison said as of Tuesday, a little more than 100 voters had already cast their ballots.

According to records from the Statement of Votes Cast in the Newton County September 2007 Special Election on the education SPLOST, a total of 2,948 people voted in the education SPLOST special election. From those numbers, 2,544 people voted ‘Yes’ for the education SPLOST, and 404 people voted ‘No.’

Each education SPLOST lasts five years. Monies collected from SPLOST cannot be used for paying salaries, buying supplies or maintenance, because state law prohibits it. Revenue generated by the SPLOST can be used only to pay for capital projects and to retire debt.

In late-2012, the Newton County Board of Education approved a call for the SPLOST referendum, which would allow the current SPLOST to continue undisturbed for another five-year period, starting in 2015 and continuing until 2019.

The one percent tax for education can be used to purchase buses, new security technology, building renovations, new construction as needed, replacement of outdated computers, etc. If passed, it would be the fourth education SPLOST approved for the county.

In January, the Newton County School System named Bea Jackson, director of the Washington Street Community Center, and Danny Stone, manager of Economic Development for Snapping Shoals, as co-chairs for the education SPLOST IV referendum. The goal of the group is to help inform the community about the education SPLOST.

Jackson said the committee, The Newton County Citizen’s for Children’s Excellence, has attended various school and parent-driven meetings, associations and community groups to explain the education SPLOST. She said the group is now informing the community about early voting for the education SPLOST.

"We are moving forward in terms of educating the community and the public about SPLOST and what in fact it will be used for. The group has been conducting a grassroots on the ground campaign to reach out to those primarily most impacted by education in our community," Jackson said. "Over the next few days, we are going to see an increase in visibility of the campaign."

Jackson said the group is using social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to get the message out about the education SPLOST.

She explained that the group has received a lot of positive feedback about the education SPLOST, because people have seen how it has previously helped schools in the community.

"We’ve heard very positive things regarding SPLOST. I think that what we’ve got are people here in Newton County who realize the benefits of E-SPLOST and what it’s done for our education community in the past," Jackson said. "We’ve certainly made some significant gains from our SPLOST projects that we’ve had in the past, even as we continue to see some of those SPLOST dollars still in effect today, such as with the construction of the new Newton High School."

Though there are people who are optimistic about the education SPLOST, Jackson said there are still people in the community who don’t approve of the referendum.

However, Jackson is hopeful the committee can educate those about the education SPLOST and be persuasive in getting a vote for the SPLOST.

"We think that we can certainly be convincing as to the importance of this referendum because our question is, ‘If not SPLOST, then what?’"

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