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Legislators introduce streamlined SPLOST bill
Hall and Gainesville could vote on tax without Buford
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A new piece of state legislation could help school systems when it comes to splitting up dollars from the 1-cent sales tax for education.

Hall County's representatives introduced House Resolution 761, which would allow county school districts to collect the tax without the participation of all the independent school districts.

In Hall County, this means Hall County Schools and Gainesville City Schools could move forward with voting on the special purpose local option sales tax without an agreement with Buford City Schools.

"Traditionally, Buford will come to the table and negotiate a set amount of funds and Gainesville and Hall County split up funds based on a school time equivalent," said Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville.

"Buford can hold out on the agreement, and that has been a problem in the past."

The resolution would also distribute the funds to all three school districts based on enrollment numbers.

"This is something that Hall County and Gainesville have made a mention of, but there was nothing they could do and it was a frustration point for a while," Collins said. "This isn't to penalize anyone. It's to make this process fair."

Collins introduced the bill after the deadline for local legislation to pass for the 2011 session. If passed in 2012, the change will go out to voters as a constitutional amendment.

"This gives us time to work on the bill during the interim," Collins said. "If voters approve it, we'll have this for the future."

On March 15, Hall County voters approved SPLOST IV to continue the education tax, which would raise an estimated $130 million for school improvements over the next five years.

Gainesville will use funding to demolish and rebuild the deteriorating Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, originally built in 1937. Another $5.1 million would go toward bond debt, $3 million for renovations and $300,000 for school buses and textbooks.

Hall County plans to spend $50 million on renovations, $20 million on classroom additions, $15 million on technology and $3 million for school buses and library books.

Buford negotiated a share of about $3.8 million.

Since 1997, the systems have raised more than $350 million through SPLOST. SPLOST IV collections will begin Sept. 30, 2012, when the current SPLOST ends.

"A number of people believe the original intent was for the SPLOST proceeds to be divvied up on a (full-time equivalent) basis, and they think the rewriters left it out when creating the legislation that supported SPLOST relating to education," said Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield.

"We have a great relationship with Buford and Gainesville, but this has been going on 15 years, and it will continue to be debated for as long as we have SPLOST."

 

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