ESPLOST Passes in Lowndes County, Valdosta To Get New High School

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Winnie Wright
March 18, 2015

Lowndes County, GA - Only about 3,000 voters turned out for Tuesday's special election in Lowndes County, but their message was clear.

"Anything to help the children, that's what I'm for", says retired teacher, Linda Law.

ESPLOST passed by nearly 80 percent of the vote. The one cent special local option sales tax to benefit Lowndes County and Valdosta City Schools was set to expire in September of 2017. The continuation of ESPLOST will carry that an additional five years.

Over that time, Valdosta City Schools says, the ESPLOST is expected to bring in roughly $135 million to split between the school systems. The main project to come from ESPLOST funding will be the new multi-million dollar Valdosta High School Campus.

"We'll be working real stringently on developing a more precise plan and numbers as we look forward to January of 2016", says Kaci Nobles, Director of Facilities for Valdosta City Schools.

Nobles adds that with that construction date less than a year away, they can breathe a lot easier now that ESPLOST has passed. The new $85 million Park Avenue location will replace the aging school currently on North Forrest Street.

"Let's give them the best tools in the world that we possibly can to work with our kids, because one of the things we all need to understand is our mortality. We need to be preparing folk that's going to carry this thing on", says Jerome Tucker, Co-Chair of the ESPLOST Committee.

Jerome Tucker adds that after the new Valdosta High is built, every school in Lowndes County will be new or newly-renovated. He says this is a major selling point for those moving their families or their business to the community.

In a written statement, Lowndes County Schools Superintendent, Wes Taylor, added this:

First and foremost, we want to thank the ESPLOST committee with co-chairs Jerome Tucker and John Eunice, for their commitment to promoting ESPLOST in our community. The overwhelming percentage is indicative of the value our community places on public education. The first ESPLOST was a harder sell as we had to ask the community to trust the school systems to be good stewards of these funds. With the passages of ESPLOST II, III, IV, and now V, the community's vote shows that they not only trust us but also approve of the projects that have been implemented through the past 20 years.

The current ESPLOST expires in 2017 and EXPLOST V will take effect in the fall of that year. Projects planned for Lowndes County Schools include:

  • Construction of a Fine arts Auditorium at Lowndes High School
  • Addition of classrooms to existing elementary schools
  • Continued improvements and enhancements to school safety by adding access controls, surveillance cameras, security fencing, signage, lobby renovations, and communications systems
  • Modifications to athletic facilities
  • Maintaining and upgrading the existing instructional and administrative technology and infrastructure
  • Provide computing devices, printers, audio/visual equipment, interactive classroom devices for all schools
  • Adoption and purchase of textbooks and instructional materials
  • Provide for support functions, including school buses

  • Updated By: Winnie Wright
    March 17, 2015

    Lowndes County, GA - Lowndes County voters hit the polls Tuesday to vote on the ESPLOST, a one cent sales tax that goes towards education.

    "This is a continuation of an existing tax that's already in place and will go on another two years. This will be a continuation for another five years beyond that. And pay for some much needed facility improvements that are needed in both school systems", says John Eunice, Co-Chair of the ESPLOST Committee.

    The penny tax is a "fair tax" meaning I-75 commuters, visitors to the area, and residents will all pay in to the $135 million dollars in projected revenue for local schools.

    Linda Law, a retired teacher of 32 years, tells us she was motivated to vote Tuesday by the children.

    "Education is very important to me, so I really do want to support this if the money is going to go to help the children. Anything to help the children, that's what I'm for', Law says.

    The Lowndes County Board of Elections says the ESLOST voter turnout was low, however, they say it really boils down to one person. The winning side simply needs 50% plus one vote.

    For some, it's not about the results but about exercising their rights. LeTisha Hargett has been bringing her daughter to the polls since she was born.

    "For me, it's really important because people have died just for us to have the right vote. It is our way to have a voice in every situation.

    The ESPLOST was held as a special election this month so the school systems would know how to plan financially for the upcoming years.

    The main project in mind would be the new Valdosta High School, which would receive a majority of Valdosta City Schools' cut. It looks like Valdosta will be getting that new school, as poll results show the ESPLOST was passed by nearly 80%.

    By: Winnie Wright
    February 24, 2015 5 pm

    Valdosta, GA - The ESPLOST Campaign kicked off at the Valdosta City Hall Annex, Feb.24. At the kickoff, the committee provided parents and citizens with information on how and where ESPLOST money is spent.

    ESPLOST is a 1% special local option sales tax that is already in place. In the past, ESPLOST money has been used to build the new Pine Grove Elementary and Middle Schools, purchase new school buses, and renovate existing schools.

    "It's not a new tax or anything, it just renews the existing ESPLOST which is set to expire in September of 2017. And it's geared to help raise an addition $135 million dollars over the next five years", says John Eunice Co-Chair of the ESPLOST Committee.

    Eunice adds that the ESPLOST is a fair tax, meaning everyone is charged an additional 1% in sales tax. His committee estimates that over half of the money collected comes from visitors to the Valdosta/Lowndes Area.

    At Lowndes County Schools, the tax money would be spent remodeling classrooms and purchasing new technology for classrooms.

    At Valdosta City Schools, a majority of the ESPLOST money would go towards the new Valdosta High School. Monday, renderings were released of the new school. The images were released the same day early voting on the E-SPLOST referendum began in Lowndes County. This, according to the school system, was no coincidence.

    "Our current facility is over 40 years old and so this facility is very much needed here in our community. It's a much larger facility. It's over 500,000 square feet. It's an entire campus.So it's not just a school building that we're building", says Kaci Nobles. with Valdosta City Schools.

    Nobles adds that the new Valdosta High will resemble a college campus.

    Early voting for ESPLOST is now through March 13th. Election Day is March 17.