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Monday, August 8, 2011 - 8:01pm

Economy Looms In Sales Tax Votes

Chatham County school officials this week approved a list of projects to be funded by a proposed penny sales tax for education.

Local voters will decide the tax this November but officials will have a few factors against them.

When voters approved the current Education Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax, or E-SPLOST, five years ago, the economy was much stronger.

Savannah's job and housing markets haven't picked up to pre-recession levels.

And there's also next year's statewide vote on a proposed transportation sales tax.

If both are approved, the sales tax here will be eight percent.

Chatham County School Board member Lori Brady says, she hopes voters weigh all the factors and approve the penny for education.

"If the citizens do not renew the E-SPLOST then their taxes are going to go up at least one mill to one and a half mills," Brady says. "That's because we use E-SPLOST to pay our bond debt."

Officials can only use E-SPLOST for capital projects or to pay off bonds on capital projects.

Chatham School Board President Joe Buck says, voters will weigh the economy, but it's not the only factor.

"Anybody who's in a position where we are, trying to improve, in our case, education, and in other people's cases, transportation, is very aware of that," Buck says. "But that, indeed, is the reason we have the vote by the people to decide whether they want it or not."

Officials project the tax could tax in bring in from $300 to $315 million.

The proposed project list includes new schools and school upgrades.

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