Frequently Asked Questions
What is a SPLOST?
A "Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax" -- or SPLOST -- is a financing method for funding capital outlay projects in Georgia. It is an optional 1% sales tax levied by any county for the purpose of funding the building of parks, schools, roads, and other public facilities. The sales tax is a pay-as-you-go plan that uses tourism and purchasing dollars to fund major capital improvements without raising the tax rate for property owners. SPLOST expires after five years unless citizens vote to renew.
SPLOST was first enacted by the Georgia Legislature in 1985, but in 1996, the law was broadened to allow school systems to place referendums before voters to approve the construction of new schools, renovate classrooms and buildings, and fund general school improvements.
What does SPLOST pay for?
In Fulton County Schools, the approved SPLOST is 1% -- one penny per dollar. FCS first began using this funding source in 1997, and since that time it has allowed the school district to build and renovate schools, upgrade technology, enhance safety and security, buy school buses and reduce long-term debt.
What is the current SPLOST collection period?
The current sales tax (SPLOST V) began July 1, 2017, and will end on June 30, 2022, unless Fulton County voters approve its continuation. By law, the tax cannot last longer than what voters approved.
How is this SPLOST (SPLOST V) different from previous ones?
The SPLOST V program is about the continued investment in the district's current facilities and technology. Due to the extreme growth of new students, previous SPLOST programs primarily were used to build new classrooms. SPLOST V, which began July 1, 2017, is focusing on the renovation and renewal of existing community schools. Over the past two decades a significant amount of money was spent building new schools to house students, and now many of those schools have building components and systems reaching the end of their useful lives.
SPLOST V also continues the investment needed to upgrade technology equipment and the supporting infrastructure necessary for the student to compete in the 21st Century. These investments allow the district to continue its focus on personalized learning and continuous achievement.
Does FCS need more schools?
While the county's growth has slowed during the past several years, the school system is still growing in areas throughout the district. In fact, it is one of the few Georgia school systems that continues to experience growth. Through previous SPLOST programs, FCS has been successful in reducing the number of portable classrooms by building new schools and constructing additions. To continue providing a high-quality education for all students, the need for more classrooms, technology, and other capital improvements still exists.
Why does SPLOST have a substantial investment in technology?
Technology in the classroom and mobile devices enhance the learning experience, increase student engagement, and support learning beyond the school day. As a result, students are better able to master concepts and content – building a strong foundation in the early years and then producing graduates who are career and college ready. Our students expect technology to enable every part of their lives and future employers demand technical literacy.
Every aspect of the district is increasingly dependent on Information Technology, not only operations and student information systems, but now teaching and learning too. Lessons, assessments, assignments and progress feedback are all becoming digital. The infrastructure and network are the lifeline to information, communication, and our daily tasks. We must continually, monitor, maintain, and enhance our digital capabilities to keep pace with the demand and ensure the safety and security of sensitive information.
How does SPLOST impact citizens without children?
The one-penny 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. Because of the community’s support of the sales tax, the Fulton County School Board has been able to build new schools and renovate existing schools. At the same time, property taxes have been lowered and the previously incurred long-term debt has been reduced. Fulton County Schools in on track to completely retire its long-term debt by 2022 thanks to SPLOST.
Who decided the priorities for this renovation and construction work?
A Facility Condition Assessment was conducted at all facilities occupied by Fulton County Schools to identify deficiencies and systems’ anticipated replacement needs. When evaluating existing facilities, each school was given a consolidated score and ranking based on the five-year Facility Condition Index (FCI) score and Educational Adequacy (EA) score. These scores are based on a 0-100 scale, from worst to best. This consolidated score was created by weighting 60 percent of the five-year FCI score and 40 percent of the EA score, and then adding the two numbers together. This scale allows the facilities to be ranked from 1 through 86 in terms of their physical condition and ability to effectively deliver their educational program. It is also an effective, data-driven way to prioritize and determine the actions that need to be taken at a given facility.
Why does the school system need SPLOST funds for capital projects?
Since 1997, SPLOST has been the school system's primary funding source for new school facilities and other district improvements. Without SPLOST, the school system would be limited in its ability to provide new school facilities and purchase capital items for students. Some of the other funding options, such as bonds or other long-term loans, have more expenses to taxpayers since they are essentially interest-heavy loans whereas SPLOST is a pay-as-you-go financing system.
School system funds and expenses generally fall into two categories:
- Operational Expenses - Such expenses include teacher salaries, instructional materials, bus fuel and utility bills. Funding is provided through state allocations and local property taxes.
- Capital Expenses - Such expenses include the construction and renovation of school facilities as well as 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 are the differences between a sales tax and other options, such as a bond referendum, for example?
School districts previously 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 property tax increases to retire or 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 and does not affect only those who live within Fulton County. Rather, everyone who works, visits, or shops in Fulton County also pays for school construction and renovation. Georgia, and especially Fulton County, is a hot spot for tourism and movie production, which yields more sales tax money for schools.
Has the construction debt (debt service) which incurred prior to 1997 been refinanced to a lower interest rate, or could it be refinanced to minimize the total amount due?
A refinancing of the 1987 bonds occurred in 1991, and a refinancing of the 1993 bonds occurred in 1998. All outstanding bonds now issued cannot be refinanced again. Because voters approved the continuation of the SPLOST, Fulton County Schools will be debt-free by 2022.
Could the Fulton County School Board use the penny sales tax for other things, like hiring more teachers or giving them raises?
The penny sales tax cannot be used for teaching personnel or any other operational costs. Only capital projects, such as new schools, renovations, new classrooms, technology, security improvements, debt retirement, and other capital expenses, are acceptable uses of the sales tax revenue.
How can others get answers to specific SPLOST-related questions?
Anyone with questions about SPLOST can email SPLOSTinfo@fultonschools.org.