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Sales tax vote set
Plan tackles debt, improvements
Ann Crow is sworn in Thursday as District 1 school board member with husband Roger and daughter Leigh by her side. It’s her third term on the board. - photo by Jennifer Sami

Forsyth County voters will return to the polls in spring to decide whether to extend a 1-cent sales tax for education.

The local school board on Thursday approved a measure to hold the special election on March 15.

If voters agree, the extension would begin July 1, 2012, and would last five years or until tax collections hit a cap of $195 million.

According to district projections, about $141.4 million would go toward paying off voter-approved bonds from 2005 and 2007.

The remaining $53.6 million could be used, among other items, to buy land for future schools, improve technology at existing schools and renovate facilities.

It would be the third extension of the tax, known as a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST.

The current sales tax, which expires on June 30, 2012, was expected to raise about $207 million to pay off the system’s bond debts.

Citing the slow economy, the system’s finance director Dan Jones has said the actual collection will total $145 million to $150 million by the time it expires.

Voters have been overwhelmingly supportive of the previous sales taxes for education.

Thursday, district spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo outlined the plan, which will launch Jan. 24, to ensure parents and stakeholders vote.

While the school board cannot tell voters how to vote, Caracciolo said it’s important to inform them what’s at stake.

“Our communications plan has various tools, from electronic to face to face, to provide voters options to be informed,” she said.

Caracciolo said information on the sales tax will be posted on a Web page. Also, two community meetings—one each in north and south Forsyth -- are planned.

Should the sales tax fail, the only option for funding the projects and retiring bond debt would be to raise property taxes, she said.