Bryan County continues plans for new schools

RICHMOND HILL, GA (WTOC) - School leaders in Bryan County are continuing with plans to build two new schools.

While the county continues to see major growth, the school board says the school system is seeing an average of 500 students each year and they need more room.

Currently, three major school projects are in the works.

WTOC spoke to the county's school board chair on Tuesday who said they continue to see new students, and in order to handle all of these students, they need to build two new schools - an elementary school and a high school. Both of these schools will be built in the area of Warren Hill Road near Richmond Hill Middle School.

In addition to the two new schools, they're also looking at building a maintenance and facility center in the same area.

With all of these projects in the works, Bryan County is looking at a price tag of around $150 million. School leaders say they plan to use funding from three sources - state, bonds, and ESPLOST.

"Our next ESPLOST has been voted in favor of, and we can plan on collecting that money for the next five years. But, there's really nothing beyond that that says it's guaranteed. So, it wouldn't be smart for us to go ahead and put projects and debt on the books of the school system with the idea of paying it back through ESPLOST which hasn't been approved yet," said Eddie Warren, Bryan County BOE Chair.

Warren says they need this money now so they can go ahead and start getting the new schools in place. That is why they're using a bond money referendum to mainly pay for the new schools, which will bring some changes to the county's mil rate.

Bryan Co. Commissioners recently approved increasing and applying the mil rate to help the school board pay for the schools.

The school board recently sold around $74 million worth of bonds, but the bonds will need to be paid back.

So, county and school leaders are designating a specific mil rate which they will collect and make quarterly payments to the investors.

"Presently, you have the mil rate which is designated for the school system and it will be separate on your tax bill. We've been lucky enough in Bryan County that the mil rate has pretty much stayed the same since I've been on the school board, which is about 18 years. This will be a separate line and it not be used for operations. It will solely be used to pay the debt off the bonds," Warren said.

The school board will now have to decide what that specific mil rate will look like. Warren expects it to be around 1-1.5 mi.. Property owners can expect to see the change on next year's tax bill.

The new elementary school is expected to be completed by 2020, and the new high school by 2021.

New schools location:

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