Santa Rosa County voters overwhelmingly approved extending the half-cent sales tax by a 74.37 percent margin.

MILTON — Santa Rosa County voters on Tuesday decided the half-cent school infrastructure surtax is here to stay for another 10 years.

They overwhelmingly approved extending the half-cent sales tax by a 74.37 percent margin. 

In all, 12,196 of the county's 133,343 registered voters cast ballots in the special election. Those voting to extend the tax numbered 9.070 while those opposed totaled 3.126, according to unofficial results from the county Supervisor of Elections office. The voter turnout was 9.15 percent. 

Joey Harrell, assistant superintendent of administrative services for the Santa Rosa County School District, said he was relieved and very humbled by the outcome. 

"We have become very reliant on those dollars to keep our facilities maintained in a manner that is safe and conducive for our students," Harrell said. "The taxpayers have entrusted in us again. We have shown that we are good stewards, and we will continue to be."

The half-cent surtax is used to build new schools, renovate existing schools and add classroom technology.

Voters first approved the tax in 1997 and agreed to extend it in 2007.

If the tax extension was denied Tuesday, one-third of the school district's capital outlay budget would have been slashed, according to Harrell.

"We would have been in some dire straits to build and maintain our facilities," he said. 

Now, the School Board is looking to use the stabilized budget to build new schools and upgrade to "state-of-the-art" classrooms. 

"This certainly gives us the opportunity to leverage new schools," Harrell said. "This year alone we've already budgeted over $2 million of the sales tax for technological infrastructure upgrades and technology that are needed for testing."

School Board members were meeting in executive session Tuesday night and were not available for comment.