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ESPLOST vote set for November

At their Sept. 13 meeting, the Lamar County Board of Education heard a report from superintendent Dr. Jute Wilson that the ESPLOST vote is set to be on the ballot in November. ESPLOST must be approved by voters every five years and must be used for capital project expenditures. ESPLOST is a one penny sales tax placed on local consumer purchases that is used to help fund buildings and supply technologies needed to help give students quality education, according to Dr. Wilson. He said the current ESPLOST has helped fund several capital projects for the school system providing students with new facilities, safety precautions and technology. Signs have been placed around the schools identifying some of the school’s completed projects. Completed projects include the Fine Arts Center, the College & Career Academy, Trojan Field, security entrances for the schools, security cameras, painting of the schools, resurfacing of the tennis courts, LED lighting for the gym, renovations in the middle school cafeteria and the installation of a fully equipped computer lab for the elementary school. The continuation of ESPLOST will be determined by voters in the Nov. 8 election. The school board wants to collect $7.8 million over the five years. Collections would not begin until January 2018 and run through December 2022. Of those funds, $2 million will go to pay off 2008 bonds. Another $4 million will go to pay off QZAB bonds. Over $500,000 would go to technology, transportation, renovations and equipment. The remainder will go toward bonds for new high school, the first bond payment for which would be in 2020 with payoff in 15 years. ’Our most aggressive timeline puts us in the new high school in the fall of 2019 which would mean our current high school freshmen would be in the new facility for their senior year. In other matters, the board: ’¢ Approved the acceptance of bids for a covered walkway canopy at the Middle School. The canopy will be a sturdy aluminum structure extending from the entryway to the curb and will be funded with ESPLOST. ’¢ Approved the purchase and heard from transportation director Cleve Hendrix about a 2015 international bus with air conditioning funded by state Bus Bond Allocation. Hendrix indicated the transportation department would like to begin putting air conditioned busses into the fleet, rotating a bus in each year. Rotation for air conditioned busses would start with those that have the most kids who are the latest to arrive home after school. ’¢ Heard a report from Dr. Wilson about the purchase of a new lightning detection system. The system will be mounted on top of the press box within the next month and will sound off in the threat of lightning strike, offering 24 hour surveillance detection. In the event of detection, a distinct airhorn effect will sound and will carry to every PE and practice field on campus. ’¢ Heard a report from Dr. Wilson on Attendance Awareness Month. The schools are striving to promote awareness and educate parents on the importance of attendance, especially at an early age. Wilson pointed out research showing that over half of Lamar County students have missed six or more days of school over the past year and that improving school attendance is a priority. ’¢ Heard a report from finance director Bryan Stephens that there were no findings on the 2015 audit and that the school district continues to be financially healthy and stable. Stephens concluded he should have FY16 wrapped up by October’s board meeting.

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