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With just a little over a month left before Catoosa County's Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax vote, Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese is doing all she can to make sure people cast their ballot to provide the district with the funds to continue supporting area students.

After seeking feedback from hundreds of constituents, the county school board developed a list of projects should voters again approve the 1-cent sales tax, which has been in effect since 1997 and must be voted on every five years.

Early voting begins Feb. 22 and runs through March 12, while the official referendum date is March 16. The deadline to register to vote is Feb. 16.

Ahead of the vote, Reese has a few initiatives planned to raise awareness, including a meeting with the Catoosa Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 11. The district also plans to notify parents by text about the vote, and Reese said she will continue to seek other platforms.

"We did our community engagement initiative [in the fall], putting the video out, texting all of our parents, putting it into the paper, making sure that our citizens gave input into the projects so now it's just getting the word out that the vote is coming up," said Reese.

The referendum, if passed, will be the sixth of its kind and will help the district fulfill technology, safety and facility equity needs countywide, as well as other routine projects.

Major projects include constructing a theater at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High, beginning the renovation of Boynton Elementary, and building a campus for the From Here to Career College and Career Academy to offer students from across the district the opportunity to receive workforce-targeted education in pathways including nursing, sports medicine and therapeutic services; architecture and construction; and more.

"We always want to make sure that we remind our community that the promises that we've made with our referendums, we've always kept," Reese said. " Parents and teachers appreciate that the district maintains modern classroom technology and that every student has a personal technology device so students learn to use technology productively. The community appreciates facility equitability projects that ensure that every student in every attendance zone has the same opportunity to attend an excellent, well-maintained school with equitable extracurricular facilities."

Since the tax is on commercial purchases, the millions of dollars raised through ESPLOST each year come not just from residents, but from consumers who travel to Catoosa County and spend money.

Some of this, Reese said, is driven by Catoosa's competitive 7% tax, which is especially lower than Hamilton County, Tennessee's 9.25% sales tax and the 8% tax in many other Georgia counties.

" Anyone that buys gas and stops in Catoosa County is helping pay for first-rate facilities for our children," she said. "This is definitely getting a bang for our buck and making sure that our children are taken care of."

For information about voting in the upcoming election, including precinct locations and times, visit catoosa.com/departments/view-all-departments/elections-voter-registration.

Contact Tierra Hayes at thayes@timesfreepress.com.

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