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Rome BOE ready to call for ELOST referendum

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Rome City Schools

The Rome Board of Education is poised to approve a resolution tonight calling for a referendum in November on a 1-percent sales tax extension, according to Lou Byars, superintendent for Rome City Schools.

The Floyd County Board of Education passed a similar resolution last week.

Today’s board meeting starts at 5:45 p.m. in the boardroom of the central office, 508 E. Second St. The board will caucus at 5 p.m. in Byars’ office.

The resolution includes the question voters will see on their ballot this fall and reflects the proposed projects for both school systems. The current education local option sales tax ends March 31, 2019, and, if passed by voters, the tax collections would start in April 2019 and run for five years.

The list of projects to be funded under an extended ELOST has essentially stayed the same since Byars went public with the facility plans during a community meeting in February.

The system wants to demolish Main Elementary School and build a new school onsite; renovate North Heights Elementary into a STEM-oriented sixth-grade academy, including the addition of new classrooms; and expand Rome High by constructing a new building.

That facility would be used, at least in part, as a college and career academy, on the site of the practice football field. New classrooms would be added where necessary.

Also, the system would seek to purchase equipment for systemwide technology improvements, equip each school with security upgrades, replace some buses in its fleet and add additional space to elementary schools if needed. The resolution states ELOST money could be used for property purchases, but Byars said he doesn’t expect the system to do so.

The costs of the projects are still rough estimates, Byars said, as the system is still in the planning phase.

The Main Elementary work is projected to cost anywhere from $10 million to $11 million. Some of that cost would be covered by what’s left from ELOST 4 collections so work could get started on building a new school right away, Byars said.

Renovating North Heights is estimated to cost $8 million to $9 million, and Byars said the final cost would depend on what’s put inside. The academy would house all the system’s sixth-graders and aims to be a state-of-the-art facility that sets an example other school systems can emulate, he said.

Money from state capital outlay funds, which is money specific for refurbishing and remodeling school facilities, would be directed to the North Heights project to supplement ELOST funds, Byars said. State money would also be used for applicable portions of other projects as well, he added.

The new building at Rome High would also act as a field house, provide space for the school’s ROTC program and be used as a meeting place. An initial estimate shows this project to be the most expensive at $14 million. Byars said this number will fluctuate depending upon how many pathways they put in the CCA.

The system is allowing for about $5 million to be reserved for the lower-priority projects.

“We’ve got to make sure we have the money available to do these projects because you will experience growth where you may not have anticipated it,” Byars said, adding that the system operates on a “pay-as-you-go” model.

Byars said committees made up of everyone from parents to teachers to business leaders will be put together to be resources for input on the projects.

“We want to get as solid group as we can so we have it from all perspectives,” he said.

The board will also look to adopt next year’s budget today, following the second of two state-mandated public hearings.

Byars — who initially recommended to the City Commission’s Finance Committee that the system’s property tax rate stay the same at 17.45 mills for another year — said Monday that after reviewing the preliminary tax digest, the system is looking at going with a rollback rate. He did not have the figure for what the rollback rate would be set at on Monday, but expected to announce it to the board today.

“I can tell you the millage rate will be no higher than it is now,” he said.