Since 1996, school systems in Georgia have been allowed to place a referendum
before taxpayers for a special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST). This
one-penny sales tax must be used for capital improvements and long-term debt
reduction from previous bonds. This funding source has enabled school districts
to build and renovate schools, upgrade technology, buy school
buses and reduce long-term debt. The sales tax is a pay-as-you-go plan that uses
tourism and purchasing dollars to fund major capital improvements while reducing
the tax rate for property owners. SPLOST expires after five years unless
citizens vote to renew.
Does SPLOST create a new tax?
The first educational sales tax referendum (SPLOST I) that voters approved in 1997 was the first time a one-penny sales tax was created for the schools in Fulton County. Since that time, the sales tax has been extended at five-year increments, by voter approval, three times. The amount of tax has never gone up -- it has remained at one penny -- which means that there have been no new taxes added.
Does the school system need more schools?
While Fulton County growth has slowed the last couple of years, it is still
growing. In fact, it is one of only a very few Georgia school systems that is
still growing. By 2017, 10,000 new students are forecasted to enroll in our
schools. Due to previous SPLOST programs, we have been successful in reducing
the number of portable classrooms used for education. To continue providing a
high quality education for all our students, the need for more classrooms,
technology, and other facility improvements still exists.
What is SPLOST IV paying for?
The current SPLOST IV program (2012-2017) is about continued investment in our facilities and
technology. Due to the extreme growth in new students, previous SPLOST programs
had been primarily used to build new classrooms while this program focuses on the renovation and renewal of existing community schools.
Over the past two decades a significant amount of money was spent to build
new schools to house our students, and now many of these schools have building
components and systems reaching the end of their useful lives and will require
replacement. This SPLOST also continues the investment needed to upgrade
technology equipment and the supporting infrastructure necessary for the student
to compete in the 21st Century, including:
New Schools and Classroom Additions
Nine new schools – eight elementary schools and one middle school
Additions at nine schools – one elementary, five middle and three high schools
Renovations and Modifications
Mechanical, plumbing and electrical upgrades, interior maintenance, athletic improvements and landscaping
New playground equipment for some elementary schools
Wireless, mobile learning devices for student use
Updated video and audio recording tools
Improved and expanded distance learning for students
Virtual space for digital student work, such as publications, presentations, video and audio
Interactive classroom websites with curriculum resources and assignments
Updated equipment for technology and career-oriented classes
Online student assessment allowing immediate results
Regularly updated laptop computers for teachers
Digital projectors that act as interactive whiteboards on any surface
Online teacher/student communication and collaboration tools
Online professional learning resources for staff
Health and Safety
Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)
Visitor identification system for all schools
Improved access control for all schools
Furniture, Equipment and Buses
Furniture and classroom equipment
New school buses
When does the current SPLOST end?
The current five-year sales tax (SPLOST 4) began in 2012 will expire on June 30, 2017. Should the community wish to continue funding the construction of new schools and technology through this means, the sales tax would need extension. To do this, voters must once again give their approval through a countywide referendum.
What did SPLOST I, II and III fund?
SPLOST I (1997-2002) funded 17 new schools and 12 additions. SPLOST II (2002-2007) funded 10 new schools
and 6 additions and SPLOST III (2007-2012) funded 10 new
schools and 10 additions. These programs focused primarily on new
school construction due to overcrowding and getting portables off of school
Who decided the priorities for this renovation and construction work?
A Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) was conducted on all facilities occupied by Fulton County Schools to identify deficiencies and systems’ replacement needs anticipated in the near future. A Master Plan utilizing the combination of the facility condition, educational adequacy and technology readiness assessments was used to produce a priority list scoring of schools from 1 to 4, with 1 being the most in need of replacement or improvement. In conjunction with this priority scoring system, facilities’ deficiencies were categorized into assembly codes based upon the impact upon safety and educational needs.
Schools with the highest needs are addressed first; however adjustments may be necessary due to sales tax collection cash flow and the construction logistics to minimize the impact on students and staff.
Why does the school system need SPLOST funds for capital projects?
School system funds and expenses generally fall into two categories:
1. Operational Expenses – Such expenses include teacher salaries, instructional materials, bus fuel,
and utility bills. Funding is provided through state allocations and local property taxes.
2. Capital Expenses – Such expenses include the construction and renovation of school facilities, and the
purchase of costly items such as land, buses and technology. Funding primarily is provided through
a voter-approved SPLOST or Bond referendum, with some supplemental funds provided by the state.
Funds for operational expenses are not sufficient to cover the cost of
capital project needs. By law, SPLOST funds cannot be used to pay teacher
salaries and other operational expenses.
What happens if voters do not approve continuation of a new SPLOST?
SPLOST has been a primary source of funding for the school system to build and maintain school facilities for students. Without this source of funds, the school system will be limited in its ability to provide new school facilities and to maintain existing schools and might have to consider most costly funding options, such as a bond referendum. Some of the other options have more longterm costs to taxpayers.
What are the differences between a sales tax and other options, such as a bond referendum, for example?
In the past, school districts have relied on bond referendums to fund needed school
improvements because there was no other alternative. There are a number of
limitations to bond referendums. They typically result in a property tax
increase to pay them off. The debt from bonds is long-term, as much as 20 years,
so the interest payment adds substantially to the long-term debt. In addition,
the amount of money that a bond referendum would generate is much less than what
the sales tax produces. The school improvements funded with the sales tax are
paid for as soon they open (pay-as- you- go). Schools funded with bonds take
many years to pay off, and are much costlier. SPLOST is not a new tax. In
addition, everyone who lives, works, visits, or shops in Fulton County will help
pay for school construction and renovation.
Can SPLOST be used for other things, like hiring more teachers or giving them raises?
By law, the penny sales tax cannot be used for teaching personnel or any other operational costs. Only capital projects, which include new schools, classrooms, technology, and debt retirement, are acceptable uses of the sales tax revenue.
I don’t have children in school. How does SPLOST impact me?
The one-cent sales tax keeps property taxes down and avoids creating long-term debt that would incur if the system were to issue bonds for capital improvements. With SPLOST, when a new school or facility opens, the facility is paid for with no need for long term debt. Because of the community’s support of the sales tax since 1997, the School Board has been able to build new schools and renovate existing schools. At the same time, property taxes have been lowered and previously incurred long-term debt reduced. SPLOST can only be used for capital improvements and long-term debt reduction and cannot be used for items such as teacher salaries and other operating costs.