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Our Thoughts: E-SPLOST deserves to be renewed

Turnout for early voting has been light across the state despite having some pretty big races on the ballot this year.

Georgia voters face party primaries in open seats for governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state. All seats in the General Assembly and the U.S. House are on the ballot as well.

We’d understand if you had a bit of electoral paralysis. The barrage of shotgun-toting Republicans attempting to out-NRA each other and volley of Democratic Staceys blaming each other for shortfalls in the HOPE scholarship is tiresome.

(Seriously, where do they find this many actors to portray Casey Cagle?)

But there’s one issue on the ballot that deserves your support no matter which side of the aisle you support.

The nonpartisan part of the ballot — the part down with the judicial races — includes the renewal of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or E-SPLOST.

This deserves your support, and we encourage a “Yes” vote on the E-SPLOST and General Obligation Bond.

The Newton County School System has worked hard to develop a fiscally sound funding plan that will serve students well now and for years to come.

The E-SPLOST would raise $60 million, and the bonds would raise an additional $60 million. The money would go to building a new Eastside High School, then moving the Newton County Theme School to the existing Eastside campus after needed improvements.

Other projects include purchasing new technology, replacing 45 school buses, making improvements to Sharp Stadium and other athletic facilities, purchasing band equipment and replacing furniture.

The package also includes $35.3 million in debt service.

“Newton County is growing and a compelling reason for many companies to relocate to our county is because of our talent pool,” Newton County Chamber of Commerce President Ralph Staffins said.

“To maintain good talent, it is critical that we continue to provide good schools with good facilities and the technology for our students to excel.”

To be clear, the need is there and the funding mechanism proposed is the best available to us. The tax is already being collected. A Yes vote wouldn’t raise your taxes. The E-SPLOST rate would remain a penny on the dollar.

And if the measure fails at the ballot box, realize the need won’t go away. Eastside will remain cramped, and the Theme School will remain in an old campus at Ficquett. Those problems won’t go away, but instead will have to be addressed, likely through a painful hike in the property tax. (Yes, even though Newton County is at the state cap of 20 mills, it is possible to go higher for debt service. No, we don’t want to find out how high it could go, especially when the alternative is a tax we’re already paying.)

Early voting continues Saturday, May 12, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., and will be all week from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day through Friday.

May 22 is Election Day.

Our Thoughts is the view of The Covington News’ editorial board, which includes Editor and Publisher David Clemons and Managing Editor Jackie Gutknecht.