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LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) — Lowndes County voters outside the Columbus school district will decide next month on a $47 million bond issue that school leaders say could reshape the district for years to come.

The county school board Friday set an Aug. 26 referendum on the bond issue. The bonds will pay for a new $20 million New Hope High, a $10 million centralized career technical center, major athletic and school upgrades at all three campuses, and computers for every student during the next two years.

School leaders say that in the short-term, the bonds won’t call for a tax increase but long-term estimates aren’t yet complete.

The career-technical center will be built on 12 acres off Lehmberg Road owned by T.E. Lott. It’ll combine scattered programs at three different campuses into one high-tech center.

“We want to identify skills and offer those skills with EMCC through dual enrollment, dual credit programs so our students are ready to go into the work force or to other higher education and skills training at EMCC, Mississippi State, MUW or some other institution,” explained Superintendent Lynn Wright, noting career and technical center fields are in growing demand as industries continue to grow across the region.

Working with EMCC to make the training industry-specific will put Lowndes students that much further ahead, he said.

The New Hope High project includes converting the existing high school into a middle school and rerouting traffic through the crowded campuses.

Work at Caledonia and a new elementary school already being built there through a lease-purchase agreement from existing revenues also will reroute traffic to reduce congestion and improve safety.

“Those are some major factors for us, making sure our campuses are safe and accessible,” Wright said.

The bonds must be approved by 60 percent of the voters. If approved, work on some of the smaller projects by late this year but most would start next year. The larger projects, such as new facilities, won’t be complete until 2016 while some of the renovations, such as copies and connectors at West Lowndes schools, could be done by next fall.

Wright says the success of work done by the Golden Triangle Development Link and county supervisors make the projects possible. The number of new industries have provided a huge revenue flow to the district, making the bond issues possible with little impact on taxpayers.

“It’s the kind of investment school districts dream of,” Wright said of the projects. “It gives us the most modern facilities and the most advanced tools to enable our students to compete globally.”

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