Update on sales tax boosts transparency

STAFF PHOTO BY LARRY WOOD Dr. Sean Alford, right, talks with School Board members Cecil Atchley, center, and Wesley Hightower after a meeting. Alford has stressed the need for openness with school projects.

Continuing to have a hands-on approach in tracking the progress of the one percent sales tax for school construction is a smart step forward.

Officials with the Aiken County School District and its Area Advisory Councils will hold a meeting to update the public on the sales tax from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. today at the District office, 1000 Brookhaven Drive in Aiken. This meeting marks the first anniversary of the referendum, which was approved by voters during the 2014 general election last November.

Passage of the sales tax referendum allowed the school district to kick-start and accelerate construction and renovations at schools throughout Aiken County. Passage of this tax was beneficial to the community because it helps to cover a definitive need, especially given the aging infrastructure of our schools. However, there also remains the need to thoroughly and effectively plan each of these projects to make sure each creates as little disruption as possible and allows for the best return on investment.

Making sure the school district gets these projects right will prove even more important when the next set of needs comes around. Voters entrusted the school district to spend these dollars wisely on projects throughout the School District. Should the opportunity arise again, officials must demonstrate they can spend these dollars in the most effective way for our students and our community.

Without the additional revenue from the sales tax, school board officials previously estimated it would have taken 30 years to generate the funding necessary to complete this overdue construction. Even so, it’s still imperative these projects are designed in a fiscally responsible and detailed way.

At today’s meeting, the District will present updates on the plans for the five schools that will benefit from the tax – North Augusta High School, Aiken High School, Leavelle McCampbell Middle School, Ridge Spring’s K-12 campus and the Aiken County Career and Technology Center.

District Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford has rightfully recognized the district needs to be committed to keeping the public informed about the progress of the sales tax.

“The trust that was given to the school district required a tremendous amount of faith; we’re going to do the best we can to be good stewards of that trust,” he said in the press release.

The meeting scheduled for today is a tremendous avenue to accomplish such a goal. This is an effort that should help the public feel more confident and optimistic that these projects, and the costs associated with them, will wisely be done out in the open.