August 9, 2014 10:12:42 PM
At first blush, the situation might appear counterintuitive: The Lowndes County School District will soon be awash in revenue, yet on Aug. 26 the district will ask voters to go to the polls to support a proposal to issue $47 million in bonds to be used to build, renovate or replace facilities on all three of the district's campuses.
If voters pass the proposal, taxes will go up. For a home and car with combined value of $100,000, taxes would increase by $8 to $10 per month, bond issue advocates estimate.
A tax increase is never a popular proposition, we realize. But in this case, there are several very strong argument to be made. Perhaps the biggest case to be made is that, given what we can reasonably expect in the coming years, this plan will ultimately prove to be cost-neutral for taxpayers.
The reason? Over the next four years, no fewer than four industries in the county will move from paying in-lieu fees to ad valorem taxes to the district.
It's estimated that in five years, the district will be bringing in an extra $10 million per year from that change. Half of that windfall would service the bond debt. The majority of what remains of that $10 million is likely to be returned to the taxpayers. It is not beyond reason to say that if voters approve the bond issue and see their taxes go up in the short term, within a few years residents will likely be paying less in school taxes than they do now.
If there ever was a time to build, renovate and replace, the timing seems perfect now.
District attorney Jeff Smith estimates the interest rate on the bond would be in the range of 2.75-to-3 percent, a remarkably low rate that is not guaranteed to remain so low were the district to wait.
While some argue it would be better to take a pay-as-you-go approach, the low interest rates and likelihood of lower taxes based on the rising tide of tax revenue from local industries, makes the delay unnecessary and counterproductive.
In addition to the renovations and renovations at the school campuses, part of the money will be used to build a modern, centralized career tech center that would serve all of the county's schools. The presence of such a career center is of vital importance given the county's unprecedented industrial growth and the demand those industries have for skilled workers.
As it is now, there are not enough skilled manufacturing workers in our area to meet present demands. If we are to continue to attract new industry, the call for educating a workforce the meet those needs much be answered.
It should also be pointed out that the district has exhibited good faith in its plans. The $47 million bond is actually Phase 2 of a master plan implemented two years ago. The district funded Phase 1 --a $26 million project -- out of its fund balance.
Ultimately, the proposal represents no meaningful long-term sacrifice from residents. The benefits, meanwhile, are hard to dispute. This proposal should be viewed as a reasonable investment in the future of our county.
For that reason, we enthusiastically recommend that residents in the district vote "Yes" on the bond issue.
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