Local News

School district compiling half-cent project list

Just a few years ago, the introduction of Smart Boards into Highlands County classrooms ushered in an innovative way for teachers to display lessons and involve students with touch screen technology.

Those Smart Boards are seven to eight years old and are due for replacement, Woodlawn Elementary Principal Melissa Blackman said Friday.

Blackman and the district’s other principals are making lists of their major facility and technology needs to show how the School Board of Highlands County would spend the revenue from a half-cent sales tax if approved by voters in a November referendum.

The school district announced in March that it was considering a half-cent sales tax referendum and the school board agreed that revenue was needed for school maintenance/renovation.

At the March 11 school board meeting, Board Member Donna Howerton said state funding has been reduced to the point that the district is unable to do all the necessary maintenance.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Mike Averyt said Friday he and his staff is compiling a project list that will go before the school board at a May 6 workshop.

“We will hopefully be able to finalize the project list and get the [half-cent referendum] resolution to the board on the last board meeting in May,” he said.

The county commission will likely vote on the referendum in June, Averyt said. The supervisor of elections would like to have the referendum items by July 1.

After all that happens, it will be placed on the November ballot, he said.

How many years will the district seek to levy the half-cent sales tax?

Averyt said that will be discussed at the workshop.

“The board has to give us that direction and I don’t know what they are going to decide,” he said. The projects and the duration of the tax are the two key items the board has to decide.

Averyt said the project list includes a lot of technology, renovation projects and security projects such a fencing and lighting.

In addition to Smart Boards, Blackman’s needs for her school includes roofing and plumbing projects, safety items such as fencing and gates and additional technology needs including computers and hardware.

Board Chairman Ronnie Jackson said, in his three years on the board, the school maintenance issues are the same every year when he reviews the campuses during the annual walk-through tours.

“If you go look at it you will know why we need the money,” he said. “We need to repair those things before they get a lot worse and they get worse every year.”


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