Columbia County Schools will ask voters on Nov. 8 for a half-penny sales tax to rebuild and renovate schools and add safety and technology resources.

Your vote matters.

Official Ballot Language: ONE-HALF CENT SURTAX TO FUND SCHOOL FACILITIES, SAFETY, SECURITY, AND TECHNOLOGY UPGRADES

SHALL THE SCHOOL BOARD OF COLUMBIA COUNTY LEVY A ONE·HALF PERCENT (0.5%) SALES SURTAX FOR A PERIOD OF TWENTY (20) YEARS FOR THE ACQUISITION, CONSTRUCTION, RECONSTRUCTION, RENOVATION, REMODELING, OR IMPROVEMENT OF SCHOOL FACILITIES, INCLUDING SAFETY AND SECURITY IMPROVEMENTS, AND THE PURCHASE OF TECHNOLOGY EQUIPMENT, INCLUDING HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE. THE REVENUES COLLECTED SHALL BE SHARED WITH ELIGIBLE CHARTER SCHOOLS BASED ON THEIR PROPORTIONATE SHARE OF TOTAL SCHOOL DISTRICT ENROLLMENT.

_____ For the Half-Cent Tax Against the Half-Cent Tax

_____ Against the Half-Cent Tax

Why it’s Needed?

Some of our schools are getting old and in need of renovation, repair or replacement. Operating fewer, larger schools is more cost efficient and newer schools have fewer maintenance issues. It would be the same with homes. Maintenance of two larger, new houses would cost less than maintaining four smaller, old houses. Furthermore, studies tie higher increased achievement to modern, safe and efficient facilities, using today’s technology.

What Will It Do?

Four smaller, older schools (Melrose Park, Eastside, Five Points and Niblack elementary schools) will be replaced by two larger schools. These four schools cannot be retrofitted with today’s technology. All schools will benefit with facility improvements, such as additional parking, new wings, multipurpose buildings, plus renovating offices, locker rooms and auditoriums.

The Cost

A half penny sales tax will cost 10 cents on a $20 purchase, and a family of four with a median income of $56,000 approximately $6 a month. About 23% of the money taken in will be paid by visitors and tourists. All of the money collected stays in Columbia County. It will bring in an estimated $6.2 million a year and be in effect for 20 years.

Better Buildings Benefit Everyone

Columbia County schools will ask voters on Nov. 8 for a half-penny sales tax to rebuild and renovate schools and add safety and technology resources.

• All schools will benefit.

• All students will benefit.

• The overall community will benefit.

Newer Schools Boost Learning, Safety, Jobs

Consolidating four old schools into two new schools saves operating costs, enhances learning and adds safety features.

—A quality education system has a direct impact on economic development and jobs.

Key Dates

OCT. 8: LAST DAY TO REGISTER

EARLY VOTING: OCT 24 - NOV 5

NOV. 8: GENERAL ELECTION

Guaranteed Oversight

A Citizen's Oversight Committee will review the expenditures and report to the public annually. The district is subject to multiple audits each year.

Why Half Penny, Why Now?

A half-penny sales tax spreads the burden to everyone, and an estimated 23% will be paid by visitors, lessening the burden on local property owners and residents. There’s never a good time to ask voters for a tax increase, but now is the best time for students, taxpayers and the community. Experienced facility planners looked deeply into current and projected needs over the next 20 years and by passing the tax now, the district has the option of securing bonds for immediate needs and planning the future with a known income source. Further delays continues the inefficiency of maintaining out-dated schools and failing to make necessary repairs and renovations.

courtyard

Columbia Schools are among oldest in the state. They need upgrades.

teacher

Attractive buildings help attract high-quality teachers and staff.

class

Columbia Schools are among oldest in the state. They need upgrades.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS COLUMBIA COUNTY SCHOOLS HALF-CENT REFERENDUM

Q. What exactly is on the ballot Nov. 8?

A. SHALL THE SCHOOL BOARD OF COLUMBIA COUNTY LEVY A ONE·HALF PERCENT (0.5%) SALES SURTAX FOR A PERIOD OF TWENTY (20) YEARS FOR THE ACQUISITION, CONSTRUCTION, RECONSTRUCTION, RENOVATION, REMODELING, OR IMPROVEMENT OF SCHOOL FACILITIES, INCLUDING SAFETY AND SECURITY IMPROVEMENTS, AND THE PURCHASE OF TECHNOLOGY EQUIPMENT, INCLUDING HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE. THE REVENUES COLLECTED SHALL BE SHARED WITH ELIGIBLE CHARTER SCHOOLS BASED ON THEIR PROPORTIONATE SHARE OF TOTAL SCHOOL DISTRICT ENROLLMENT.

YES

NO

For the Half-Cent Tax Against the Half-Cent Tax

Q. Why does the school board think we need it?

A. Some of our schools are very old and in need of renovation, repair or replacement. Operating fewer, larger schools is more cost efficient and newer schools have fewer maintenance issues. It would be the same with homes. Maintenance of two larger, new houses would cost less than maintaining four smaller, old houses. Furthermore, studies tie higher increased achievement to modern, safe and efficient facilities, using today’s technology.

Q. How much will it raise and how long will it be in effect?

A. The half-penny sales tax will raise about $6.2 million a year and be in effect for 20 years. Voters would then decide whether to end the tax or renew it.

Q. How will it be used?

A. Four smaller, older schools (Melrose Park, Eastside, Five Points and Niblack elementary schools) will be replaced by two larger schools. These four schools cannot be retrofitted with today’s technology. All schools will benefit with facility improvements, such as additional parking, new wings, multipurpose buildings, plus renovating offices, locker rooms and auditoriums. For a complete list of projected school improvements, click here.

Q. How much will it cost Columbia County citizens?

A. Think of it as costing a dime on a $20 purchase. A half-penny sales tax will cost a family of four with a median income of $56,000 less than $6 a month.

Q. Why a half-penny sales tax?

A. A half-penny sales tax spreads the burden to everyone, and an estimated 23% will be paid by visitors, lessening the burden on local property owners and residents. It’s a small contribution for the individual with a huge impact on schools.

Q. How can taxpayers be sure it will be spent as promised?

A. A Citizen's Oversight Committee will review the expenditures and report to the public annually. The district is subject to multiple audits each year.

Q. How does this help students?

A. An abundance of research documents that enhanced technology and safe, attractive buildings improve student learning. Modern school design facilitates project-based learning, problem solving and movement. Natural lighting, clean air and proper air conditioning and ventilation all have an impact on student learning. Students are proud of their facilities and feel safe inside. The upgraded schools also help attract and retain high-quality teachers, which is the number one factor next to parents for a successful education.

Q. How does this help taxpayers, especially those without children in school?

A. When four old schools are consolidated into two new schools, the operation and maintenance costs are reduced. New schools improve neighborhood integrity and increase property values. A high quality education produces a more capable workforce, which improves the quality of life for everyone. New schools are also used as hurricane shelters and meeting spaces for the entire community

Q. Why now, with inflation and other factors hurting taxpayers.

A. There’s never a good time to ask voters for a tax increase, but now is the best time for students, taxpayers and the community. Experienced facility planners looked deeply into current and projected needs over the next 20 years and by passing the tax now, the district has the option of securing bonds for immediate needs and planning the future with a known income source. Further delays continues the inefficiency of maintaining out-dated schools and failing to make necessary repairs and renovations.

Q. How did we get into this situation and why can’t you operate within your means?

A. The state reduced its contribution to capital improvements during the recession in 2008 and never restored it, resulting in a huge backlog of facility needs. In addition, Columbia County has some of the oldest schools in the state. Many other districts have already passed a similar tax.

Q. What about the lottery? Can’t you use that?

A. Lottery dollars cannot be used on school building maintenance or construction. The state mandates where it goes, mostly to Bright Futures scholarships and higher education.

Q. What is the difference between operational and capital dollars?

A. Operational dollars mostly pay for salaries and benefits, along with day-to-day expenses, like utilities and textbooks. Capital dollars may only be used for facility improvements, such as repairs, renovations, new schools, technology and safety enhancements.The half-penny sales tax can only be used for capital improvements.

Q. Does any of this money go to school board or administrative salaries?

A. Absolutely not. By law, money from this initiative can only be spent on facility upgrades.