To the Editor:
I am a charter member, and presently, vice-chairman of the Citizens' Watchdog Committee, which oversees the expenditures of the 1997 1/2-cent sales tax. Our objective is to assure that the funds are spent only on those projects that were selected in the beginning. Each school in our district was allocated the same amount of funds.
The committee members have visited a number of schools throughout the county since we were organized. We found that libraries in some schools were small rooms that were totally inadequate. Some teachers told of having five-gallon buckets to catch water during rains. Others had twenty (20) or more portables that were antiquated and in poor condition. The need for renovation and upgrade was obvious.
More than two out of every three schools are thirty-five (35) years old or older. Without the l/2 cent sales tax, no chance of real upgrading was possible. I am told that only about $5 million from the state is earmarked for construction each year. The sales tax was projected to bring in $70 million over the five-year-period. We already have over $70 million and have another five (5) months to go.
Everybody will pay. This is only fair. When you buy something in Escambia County, you, the tourists, and the visitors all pay. Before you feel too sorry for the tourists and visitors, remember that every time you shop in their area, you pay their tax. Our sales tax is 7 l/2 cents. Do you know some place that is less than that in our area? I don't.
I am proud to have served on the Citizens' Watchdog Committee and to have observed how our elected officials have followed their commitment to spend tax dollars like they promised they would. There are many un-met needs to upgrade our school facilities. The l/2-cent sales tax extension is the only way it will happen. I urge voters to vote yes for continuing the l/2-cent tax another five (5) years.
Lee Roy Wiggins