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Few trickle in for early SPLOST voting
Election day scheduled for March 15
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Jim Vickery casts his vote Friday on the special purpose local option sales tax for education. Early voting on the SPLOST continues at the Hall County Elections Office in Gainesville until March 11. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Early voting

When: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday through March 11
Where: Hall County Elections Office, 2285 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
Contact: 770-531-6945

Election Day

When: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. March 15
Where: Your polling place; if you’re unsure where that is, go to www.sos.ga.gov/mvp to find out.

Fewer than 1 percent of eligible Hall County voters have decided so far whether to renew the special purpose local option sales tax for education.

Early voting began Feb. 9 and 411 votes were cast as of Friday, said Charlotte Sosebee, interim director of elections and voter registration. There are 89,443 eligible voters for the SPLOST election.

"The turnout so far is very low," Sosebee said. "The turnout for elections like this are normally lower than others. The general election generally has the highest turnouts."

Hall County and Gainesville school leaders say it's important for voters to make it to the polls. The one-cent tax funds school projects in Hall County, Gainesville and Buford. The present tax expires in 2012.

Since 1997, the systems have raised more than $350 million through SPLOST. Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said the revenue has paid for school construction projects and renovations.

"The SPLOST vote is important because it will define how we pay for an awful lot of renovations to our schools," he said.

Moderate growth rates in the school systems plus aging facilities are issues that need addressing, school officials have said. Several facilities in the systems are between 40 and 65 years old and need infrastructure repairs or work to accommodate modern technology.

The new SPLOST would raise an estimated $130 million over five years, to be shared among the Gainesville and Hall County districts based on enrollment figures.

Buford negotiated a share of the potential funds for about $3.8 million.

If approved, it will be the fourth time voters have said yes to the special tax for education.

Gainesville City Schools intends to use the funds to pay off bond principal and interest, rebuild Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School and renovate or modify existing schools, among other projects.

Reducing principal on outstanding bonds is also a priority for Hall County Schools. About $50 million in renovations is planned for the system's 33 schools; electrical systems, roofs and heating and air conditioning units would be replaced.

Early voting ends March 11 at 5 p.m. and Election Day is March 15.

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