COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The Muscogee County School Board passed the SPLOST referendum at Tuesday night's meeting, and now voters will decide if they want the reinstate the sales tax.
The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, also known as SPLOST, would add one percent to your purchases in Muscogee County. The tax is expected to generate more than $190 million over five years for school improvement projects.
The board approved the referendum Tuesday night, but not without a fight.
Those opposed to passage of the SPLOST referendum urged board members to vote against it, saying school officials need to be more accountable about how monies in the past have been spent. Board newcomer John Thomas was among those calling for a top to bottom audit of school district funding before sending the issue to voters.
"There are efficiencies in the budget and to ask the public to raise taxes and commit more money to SPLOST without first asking the district to show some accountability financially is wrong and that's why I'm, opposed," Thomas said.
But the overwhelming majority of those in attendance were there to support SPLOST, like Lisa Jenkins who said money from the tax will help among other things children with autism.
"Every item on the SPLOST has a child with a need and they are waiting on that need to get met," Jenkins said. "I personally am supporting the SPLOST for autism which is number two on the list where we will gain more 24 classrooms and office space and training rooms."
Fellow board newcomer Kia Chambers spoke out in favor of the SPLOST, saying it's something the board needs to do for future generations.
"When we're talking about an audit, we are talking about how we spent in the past," Chambers said. "When we are talking about the SPLOST, we are talking about the possibility of what we can give to kids living in the future."
In the end the board passed the referendum, sending the decision now to Muscogee County voters. Superintendent David Lewis says the decision is a victory for Muscogee County children.
"I'm excited about the outcome of the vote moving forward with SPLOST," Lewis said. "I'm excited about the potential it has for our students, our teachers, and our district moving forward."
The previous SPLOST expired at the end of 2014.
Among the projects slated for renewed SPLOST funding would be a new Spencer High School and improved programming for children with autism.
Voters will decide the issue in a referendum vote on March 17.