Early voting opened this week for the March 16 referendum on continuing the education special local option sales tax in Jackson County.

Early voting for the election opened Feb. 22 at the county election center at 441 Gordon St. in Jefferson. Voting will be between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The election is county-wide and the same ballot will appear in each voting precinct. 

The measure has to pass in all three school districts — Jackson County, Jefferson and Commerce — to win approval. It is a continuation of the existing ESPLOST in the county.

The county school system plans to use funds from the ESPLOST to pay for a new middle school, new elementary schools, debt service and renovations. The county is expected to receive around $60 million from the funds over the next five years.

The Jefferson City School System plans to pay for an expansion of its middle and high schools, debt service, technology, renovations and other capital expenses. The system expects to get around $27.3 million from the sales taxes.

The Commerce City School System plans to use the funds for land acquisition, renovating schools, new buses, debt service and other facilities projects. The system expects to get around $12.5 million from the funds.

School leaders have said that because of growth in the county, new facilities are needed to house students. Without the ESPLOST, they say local millage rates would have to be increased to pay for those facilities.

ESPLOST dollars can only be used for capital projects and not for salaries and other on-going school expenses.

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