May 29, 2013

Donation to Southeast is much needed

The Daily Citizen

— It’s no secret that residents of the south end of Whitfield County sometimes feel neglected. Right or wrong, they complain that they don’t get the attention or investment that other parts of the county get.

But last week an anonymous donor stepped forward and provided almost $1 million to fund a major overhaul of the athletic facilities at Southeast Whitfield High School.

The money will be used to build a new track around the football field, expand the number of tennis courts to six from four and add lighting, replace the main concession stand roof and paint it, improve practice facilities and add new fencing around the stadium and tennis courts.

These changes have long been on the wish list of many parents, students and teachers, and Whitfield County Board of Education members have acknowledged that many of the athletic facilities at Southeast are well past their prime.

For instance, the track’s main surface has been there since the school was built more than 30 years ago, and had become cracked and worn.

But school board members decided against using money from an education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) passed last year to renovate the athletic facilities at Southeast. Instead, that money will be used to pay down the debt from building Coahulla Creek High School and rebuilding Eastbrook Middle School.

Board members made the right decision. School buildings must take precedence over athletic facilities. In fact, we’d say that tax money should never be used for athletic facilities and programs.

Those should always be funded by voluntary donations.

If athletic programs are truly important to community members, they will support them. And judging from the big gift to Southeast, those programs are very important to that school and its community.