Four local representatives in the state legislature and Columbus mayor Jim Wetherington announced their support for a proposed 1 percent sales tax for school construction Thursday afternoon.
Wetherington, Democratic Reps. Calvin Smyre and Carolyn Hugley and Republican Rep. Richard Smith gathered at The New Day campaign headquarters on Macon Road to express their support for a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for schools. The New Day campaign is a pro-SPLOST group.
Smyre said state Democratic Sen. Ed Harbison also supported the SPLOST but could not be at the campaign event because of his legislative duties.
If approved by voters on Tuesday, the tax would last five years or until the Muscogee County School District collects $223 million to complete a variety of capital projects, including five new schools — a new Carver High, a middle school, two elementary schools and a fine arts academy — additions to Northside High and Richards Middle, and athletics and technology upgrades across the system.
“I honestly believe that education is the key to many successes in life,” said Smyre, adding that he was a product of the local public school system.
Smith said the SPLOST projects will help students compete in a global economy.
“We’re not voting on bricks and mortar. We’re voting on an opportunity to give our kids and grandkids an opportunity to compete,” he said.
Hugley agreed. “We’re giving them the tools they need to succeed,” she said.
Wetherington said he has already voted for the SPLOST and asked other voters to do the same.
“Education is so important. I believe a good education prevents crime,” he said. “If you give our students a good education, they’ll go down the right path and not get involved in criminal activity … I just want to say this SPLOST tax is so important for this city and it’s tough to vote against the children.”
The board of directors for One Columbus, a community organization promoting unity and diversity, also expressed support for the SPLOST in a news release issued Thursday.
The money from the tax will help improve technology in the schools and prepare the district for growth due to Base Realignment and Closure, the group stated in the release. The Muscogee County School District is expecting about 4,300 new students after the U.S. Army relocates the Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky., to Fort Benning.