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Dear Editor: Tuesday, Sept. 18, you and I will have the opportunity to improve significantly our county school system's ability to provide for adequate classroom space and to teach our students better by voting "yes" to two questions on a special election ballot. And the good news is it will not cause an increase in our sales or property taxes.

The ballot will ask you to vote on two important questions: the continuation of the one-cent sales tax for schools for another five years and the issuance of general obligation bonds for another nine years.

Voting "yes" to both questions will help insure our students will have adequate classroom space, technology and buses to help prepare them for a better future, and it will not increase your taxes.

The school population of Newton County has mirrored the county's general population growth of about 50 percent over the last five years. From November 2001 to November 2006, the number of students in our schools grew from 12,533 to 18,457, an increase of nearly 6,000 students. This growth explosion is projected to increase to 25,690 students by 2012 - more than doubling our school population in just 11 years.

That increase is like adding more than the total population of Covington to our schools in only 11 years.

The SPLOST money will help fund the construction of three elementary schools, one middle school, an addition to Alcovy High School, new technology, new buses, a reduction in the school district's general obligation bonded indebtedness and a second stadium. The general obligation bond money will help fund a new high school, complete a new middle school, construct a band/ROTRC facility at Eastside High School and make other facility improvements.

Should this critical vote fail, you can be assured that students in Newton County Schools will be adversely affected. Schools will grow more overcrowded and additional trailers will be needed to provide classroom space. A failed vote may likely require the following: increased property taxes, doubles class sessions and the elimination of Lottery Pre-K.

Some people might suggest that if we stop funding our schools and don't build enough classroom space for our students, growth will be curtailed. They are misinformed. Growth won't be stopped, but quality growth sure will.

Some people might state that this is an increase in taxes. Again, they are misinformed. Voting "yes" on both questions will not cause an increase in your sales or property taxes. It will extend the life of taxes already being collected and will greatly help us provide necessary classroom facilities for our increasing student populations. It's a pretty straightforward and honest proposition.

Please make it a point to vote Sept. 18 and to vote "yes" on both questions. You will be actively supporting the future of a quality Newton County

Marshall Ginn

Chairman, Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce