A discussion of legislative action needed to provide the Aiken County School Board with the ability to put forth a one cent sales tax referendum to help fund maintenance and improvement of the district’s facilities was the center of the annual legislative event held Friday by the North Augusta High School’s School Improvement Council.
“The importance of this legislative event is to continue to bring attention to the needs, not only at North Augusta High School, but all of our schools in the district,” said Freddie Grimm, chairman of the council.
Members of the council, school faculty, students, district officials and school board members gathered in North Augusta High’s media center for the event.
Rep. Bill Hixon and Sen. Tom Young answered questions about the current legislation and what attendees and the community can do to help them advocate for legislation when the General Assembly returns Jan. 14.
“We will be looking at how Aiken County can be added to the list of 22 counties in the state that are currently eligible for the voters to consider a one-cent sales tax option for school capital needs,” said Young after the meeting.
They plan to either offer a standalone bill or an amendment to an existing bill, he added.
A change in legislation would provide the school board with the option of presenting such a referendum to county voters, who will have the ultimate decision as to whether such a sales tax is implemented.
“We think that the voters of this county should have the option, like the voters do in 22 other counties in the state, the voters in this county should have the option to pay for these types of school needs with a sales tax rather than increase property taxes,” he said.
School board member Ray Fleming said a one-cent sales tax could generate $18 million to $20 million.
While education continues to be the focus of the district, addressing the current infrastructure needs is also an important foundational piece, said Grimm.
“We have to make sure the infrastructure that is required for current state of the art education is here, otherwise, we fail them (the students),” he said. “Failing them ultimately means we’re failing ourselves. If we don’t do what’s necessary to advance their education and prepare them to go beyond high school, then we are short-sighted and one day, that will come back to haunt us.”