Ware County voters will decide on renewing the Education Special Local Option Sales Tax at their next visit to the polls. A referendum on whether to extend the sales tax for another five years will be held Tuesday, May 24. Polling sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. that day.
Early voting for the E-SPLOST referendum will be Monday through Friday, May 2 - 20 from 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 7 and 14 from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. at the Board of Elections and Registration.
If approved by the voters, the sales tax will begin in October 2022 and will continue through September 2027.
The proposed renewal of the tax is expected to generate $40,500,000 in revenue. A total of $14,308,000 will be used for capital outlay projects and $26,192,000 will be used to cover bond debt expenditures.
“E-SPLOST funds are specifically designated for school system needs,” stated Superintendent Bert Smith, “and cannot be used by the city or county for their needs. That one penny enables us to do so much that would not otherwise be possible without raising the millage rate.”
“I think we’ve seen in the past how far a penny can go towards very much needed things from technology to transportation to school infrastructure,” added Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lynn Barber.
“We’ve been faithful as a school system over the last several years since we’ve had E-SPLOST in place, and I think that gives us a glimpse of how we would use it in the future.”
Ware County voters have consistently approved E-SPLOST referendums for twenty-five years. Funding generated from the penny tax has provided technology upgrades at all schools, buses, instructional materials, required upgrades to Memorial Stadium for ADA compliance, HVAC and roofing projects throughout the district, specialized playground equipment, and shade structures, as well as supplementing security grants used to harden the entrances at all schools and the Central Office.
Additionally, E-SPLOST pennies have been used in recent years to construct the DAFFODIL Pre-K facility, classroom additions at five elementary schools, the Ware County Agriculture Center, the Transportation and Professional Development Facility, and multipurpose rooms at both middle schools.
If voters approve the referendum on May 24, capital outlay projects are projected to construct a new Waycross Middle School on its current campus and an open-air multi-purpose facility at Ware County High School as well as replace older buses and vehicles in the fleet. Upgrades to athletic facilities, HVAC systems, and technology infrastructure are planned in addition to the purchase of new textbooks.
E-SPLOST funds can only be used for capital projects – construction, technology, transportation, learning equipment/resources – and may not be used for salaries or benefits.
“Nearly 90% of the annual budget covers salaries and benefits for approximately 1,000 employees,” explained Smith. “The remaining budget covers other general operating expenses. Keeping our buildings and resources current and modern has been possible through E-SPLOST.”
Smith continued, “Waycross is a shopping hub for this area. Anyone who eats, sleeps, shops, or has a business in Ware County contributes to E-SPLOST collections. When a dollar is spent, a penny is collected for schools.”
The current E-SPLOST tax was approved by the voters in March 2017 and collections began in October 2017. The tax will expire in September 2022.
For more information about the E-SPLOST, visit www.ware.k12.ga.us/page/esplost-information.