COVINGTON — About 3 percent of voters approved a fourth round of an education sales tax during a special election Tuesday.
The Newton County Board of Elections reported that 1,108 residents, or 56.65 percent, voted in favor of the referendum, while 848 residents voted no, according to unofficial results. About 59,000 residents are registered voters in Newton County, according to unofficial results.
“The passage of the referendum allows more educational opportunities to be available for our students and their families,” said Abigail Coggin, chair of the Newton County Board of Education.
Nearly 600 residents voted in person during early voting from Feb. 25 through March 15 and about 25 residents voted by mail, according to the Board of Elections. Early and absentee voting results were evenly split between the 594 voters, according to results posted after polls closed Tuesday.
The 2013 SPLOST, or Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, will be an extension of the 1 percent sales tax that expires in December 2014. It will be the fourth round of an education SPLOST for the county that started in May 2007.
It is estimated that the special SPLOST election Tuesday will cost about $38,000; only 16 counties in the state held a special election Tuesday.
“We, in the school system, are most grateful to the citizens of Newton County,” said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews. “It means more secure classrooms and schools, better discipline, enhanced professional development, improved technology, well maintained facilities, safer transportation, and possible seed funding for any needed new construction. In short, it will mean better educational opportunities for a lot of children providing less of a strain on an already strained general fund."
The $45 million funds raised through the proposed SPLOST is expected to support property tax relief, school security and technology, student transportation and school maintenance and construction, according to the referendum.
Currently, Newton County property owners pay 1.9 mills in debt services, which pays off bonds for the construction of the schools Flint Hill Elementary School, the Newton College & Career Academy and the new Newton High School.
That figure will be cut to zero for five years, from January 2015 through December 2019, allowing for a $30 million school bond property tax relief.
It also will fund $3.85 million for a school security system that would put a camera and alarm system in every classroom at every school; $17 million in school technology; $11.3 million if school maintenance; $9.6 million for new school buses and other bus maintenance equipment; $3.25 million for a replacement high school or additions to current building, based on student enrollment and growth.
Due to a previous intergovernmental agreement, the Social Circle Board of Education will receive $250,000 for capital projects for construction projects.
School systems cannot use bonds or SPLOST funds for operating expenses like salaries and benefits, textbooks, utilities and fuel, according to state laws.
Bea Jackson, director of the Washington Street Community Center, and Danny Stone, manager of Economic Development for Snapping Shoals, were the co-chairs of the election.
In 2003, about 10 percent of voters cast ballots in a special SPLOST election.