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Posted: March 19, 2013 10:40 p.m.

E-SPLOST passes in low turnout election

The education SPLOST passed Tuesday by 260 votes in a special election that saw a voter turnout of only 3.31 percent.

The referendum passed 1,108 to 848, according to the final, unofficial results, with a total of 1,956 votes cast on whether to continue the dedicated 1 percent sales tax, which is used to boost the budget of the Newton County School System.

Superintendent Gary Mathews conveyed his appreciation to voters who supported the referendum.

“We, in the school system, are most grateful to the citizens of Newton County. [SPLOST] means more secure classrooms and schools, better discipline, enhanced professional development, improved technology, well maintained facilities, safer transportation and possible seed funding for any needed new construction,” Mathews said in an email Tuesday night. “In short, it will mean better educational opportunities for a lot of children, providing less of a strain on an already strained general fund.”

Newton County Board of Education Chair Abigail Coggin said she received a number of text messages and phone calls about the education SPLOST passing and thanked the voters for supporting the school system.

“Thank you to the voters for supporting the children and their futures. The passage of this referendum allows more educational opportunities to be available to our students and their families,” Coggin said. “I also want to take the opportunity to thank those people who campaigned tirelessly for the betterment of our community and with the support of our community and its stakeholders. I perceive the students of Newton County being able to compete globally by having opportunity of a world-class education.”

According to the information released previously by the school system, education SPLOST IV funding is expected to go to the following between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2019:
• Debt service tax relief, in the amount of $30 million
• New school security, whichincludes the purchase of a ViewPath and S.A.F.E. camera, audio and silent alarm system for every classroom in every school at a cost of $3.85 million

• New school technology, including computers and printers, infrastructure upgrades, interactive equipment and software for all schools at a cost of $17 million
• School maintenance, which would include system-wide roofing, paving, electrical upgrades and HVAC renovations at a cost of $11.3 million
• Additional student transportation, with approximately 75 school buses and other bus maintenance equipment at $9.6 million
• Construction of a replacement high school or making additions to current buildings dependent upon enrollment, growth and state funding at $3.25 million.

The projects and debt service add up to a total of $75 million, with an estimated $45 million set to go toward capital projects and $30 million to go to debt service relief.

Though the referendum has passed, early voting numbers reported on Tuesday were amazingly evenly split 297 to 297.
A handful of education SPLOST supporters and non-supporters were surprised to see votes on the referendum split early in the evening around 7:30 p.m.

However, once results were in, Dennis Taylor, a citizen who vocally was against the referendum, shared his disappointment that the education SPLOST passed.

“Well they won. They got more people out to vote,” Taylor said. “They know now that we are going to be there every time…nothing is going to go in uncontested anymore. They don’t have to be specific about [the SPLOST] by law on the referendum, but if they are not specific, we don’t have to vote for it. “

Before precincts closed, a few polling officials expressed their disbelief in the low voter turnout during the special election.

At the American Legion Post 32, a voter location located on Legion Drive, Rhonda Robinson, a poll official, said Tuesday afternoon that turnout had been slow, and that they hoped for a better turnout in the evening.

Around 3:30 p.m., there were only 41 voters who cast their ballot.

One woman who voted at the location said she voted against the education SPLOST. She said she was informed about the referendum, but she didn’t feel everyone was informed well on the issue.

At the Washington Street Community Center polling station around 3:45 p.m., voter turnout was also slow with only 31 people coming out to vote. Poll official Zelma Stewart said she figured voting turnout would be slow, but she didn’t think it would be as slow as it was.

Voter Louise Grier said she voted in favor of the education SPLOST and said that she felt she was informed about the referendum.

Cobb County passed its E-SPLOST with 57.25 percent of the vote (20,867 yes votes) and Jones County passed its E-SPLOST with 82.70 percent of the vote (870 yes votes) Tuesday as well.

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