AP NEWS

Revenue from 1 percent sales tax continues to exceed projections

March 1, 2019

Revenue from the 1 percent sales the Aiken County Public School District is using to help fund new facilities and renovations at five schools continues to exceed projections.

The tax, which will be in effect for 10 years until February 2025, also provides property tax relief. Aiken County voters approved the tax in November 2014.

District officials updated the public Thursday on revenue collection and the status of the five construction projections – Aiken High, North Augusta High, Leavelle McCampbell Middle, Ridge Spring-Monetta K-12 and the Aiken County Career and Technology Center – at a meeting at the district office. The meeting also was broadcast to several high schools across the county.

For the fiscal year beginning in July 2017 and ending in June 2018, projected collections were $17.4 million, but the actual collection by the end of the year was $18.8 million, said Tray Traxler, the chief officer of Finance for the district.

“The actual collection exceeded projections by $1,410,000,” he said.

For the first half of 2018-19, the district has collected $9.8 million of a annual projected revenue of $17.9 million, Traxler said.

“Collections continue to exceed projections, and we believe that trend will continue,” Traxler said.

He added that any additional dollars are earmarked for the five construction projects or for property tax relief.

“They can’t be used for any other purposes,” he said.

Traxler said 10 percent of all collections go to property tax relief and 90 percent goes to fund the building projects.

Traxler said $69,123,923 in revenue has been collected to date. Of that amount, $6.9 million has gone to property tax relief, and $62.2 million has gone to fund the construction projects approved by voters.

Over the the 10 years the tax will be in effect, $18.8 million is projected for property tax relief, and just short of $170 million is earmarked for the projects, Traxler said.

Traxler said revenue from the sales tax has provided a tax credit of $11.20 per $100,000 of value on a primary residence.

District officials also answered questions about the tax and the five construction projects from audience members at the district office and the remote locations.

One audience member asked if the school district is confident that revenue from the tax will allow the “full completion of rebuilding” the Aiken County Career and Technology Center in Graniteville. The wording in the question on the ballot put to voters in November 2014 said renovations would be made at the center if funds were available.

“We’re moving forward optimistically,” said Dr. Shawn Foster, the district’s chief officer of Operations and Student Services. “We want to make sure we plan and prepare to be able to address the Career Center. We’ll continue to monitor collections.”

Earlier, Foster said the district is in the early planning stages for the Career Center, adding that district officials have met with teachers and community stakeholders for input, recommendations and suggestions to maximize learning spaces for students and teachers.

“We want to understand the vision,” he said. “We don’t want to build a dinosaur. We want a building that will accommodate our students for the future.”

Concerning the Career Center, District Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford said, “Plans are underway, and we certainly are ready to come back and address all the needs at the Aiken County Career and Technology Center.”

An audience member at Silver Bluff High said some people are “scared” that schools on the “outskirts” of the county, such as Silver Bluff and Wagener-Salley High, which did not receive funds from the sales tax, “are going to be left out. How can folks be assured that this is not the case?”

“For those who have concerns about whether or not schools on the outskirts will be left out, that is not the case,” Alford said. “We have a large-scale master plan to address facilities throughout our district.”

Alford said the district currently is managing 15 building projects in different stages of construction.

“That’s an astronomical task, but I believe we are built for that,” he said. “Our community has supported us, and that matters to us. We are going to make sure that we do not leave out any community or any of our schools. As we say, all means all, and that would be in every circumstance.”