A decline in enrollment, sales tax collections and local and state revenue have created the perfect storm, and the Newton County School System is now looking at using bond monies in order to finish the new Newton High School campus.
In a special called meeting Wednesday afternoon, the board voted unanimously to approve the recommendations from officials regarding the General Obligation - or GO - bonds.
In 2007, Newton County voters voted to continue with the 1 percent sales tax through Dec. 2014 and authorized a $49 million GO bond. The money was to be used to construct three new elementary schools, one new middle school, one new high school and one stadium, as well as to complete Liberty Middle School and perform other additions and renovations and purchasing technology improvements, school buses and land for the school system as a whole.
The NCSS has completed the construction on Live Oak and Flint Hill elementary schools, the addition to Alcovy High School, renovations at both Newton High and Sharp Stadium and the Newton College and Career Academy. Funds have also been used to purchase technology for the NHS replacement high school, purchase and pay leases on buses, purchase land and make other building improvements. It took a little over $25 million to complete Flint Hill and the Newton College and Career Academy, leaving not quite $24 million.
And while that might seem like a lot, it is $11 million short to complete the Newton High replacement.
Since the Special Local Option Sales Tax was passed in 2007 funds to the school system have declined. They now need SPLOST funds to renovate existing buildings, technology and school buses instead of using on new building projects, but the new high school has to be completed.
School officials are proposing to the board of education that since there is still nearly $24 million in allowable bond issuance, $20 million in bond could be used to finish the high school and $9 million in SPLOST funds could be shifted to renovation projects (such as upgrading HVAC systems, roofing, paving projects and the purchase of technology and buses).
Voters will be asked to continue the SPLOST tax beginning January 2015 and those SPLOST collections - if approved - would be used to pay back the bonds and keep the bond millage rate low.