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Hall may need to spend $537 million on schools over next decade
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Hall County Board of Education and school system staff listen to a presentation Oct. 22, 2018, about projected expenses over the next 10 years. - photo by Jeff Gill

Hall County Schools is projecting $537 million in building, technology and other big-ticket expenses over the next 10 years

And 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax revenues, which have been used to cover past construction and major capital needs, may not be enough to foot the bill, Superintendent Will Schofield said during a presentation before the Hall County Board of Education on Monday, Oct. 22.

“Ultimately, it’s going to come down to the community having to vote on this,” he said. “If they’re going to pay for any kind of a plan like this, it’s going to involve bonded indebtedness.”

The biggest category of potential expenses is new construction projects, estimated at $192 million.

That includes building Cherokee Bluff Middle School, replacing or building six new elementary schools and land purchases.

Matt Cox, director of facilities and construction for the school district, didn’t specify which elementary schools.

“I picked the number six because that’s half of our older fleet of elementary schools,” he said.

Officials also are projecting:

  • $147 million in maintenance projects, such as new roofs and air conditioning systems

  • $124 million in renovation projects tailored to specific schools, such as performing arts centers

  • $58 million in technology needs, buses, media collections and large band equipment

  • $16 million for systemwide fixes, such as stadium and track improvements

“We are doing our best educated guesses,” Cox said. “I wouldn’t get too hung up in the dollar signs, but I think we are in the right range.”

He did say the $58 million expense “is the dollar sign I’m most comfortable with, because it’s based on historical information.”

Schofield said that overall, the district needs “to have a master plan, have it well thought-out and get some input, but at the end of the day, we need to do what makes sense and protect the integrity of our instructional programs.”

The system’s issues stem from a growing student population and aging buildings.

“We haven’t knocked down a school since before desegregation. I’m not sure that’s something we should be proud of,” Schofield said. “We’ve got schools that have their infrastructure underneath them crumbling with terracotta pipes.”

He added: “This community has got some major decisions to make over the next 10-15 years. It’s like driving a 300,000-mile Ford Escort. It may still get you to work in the morning, but when the transmission goes and the engine blows, do you put $7,000 into a car … that’s worth $400?”

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