• Frequently asked questions page header

    What is a capital plan?

    A capital plan outlines the improvements needed to support the day-to-day operations of a school system that are not directly related to instruction or personnel. It identifies the facility improvements needed throughout the district (including new schools, additions and reconfigurations) as well as the technology, transportation, classroom equipment, and safety upgrades necessary to support learning. The capital plan also sets projected budgets, priorities, and ways those improvements can be funded.

    How is Capital Plan 2027 different from previous capital plans?
    Capital Plan 2027 focuses on integrating all aspects of the capital plan to support the learning environment. “Bricks and Clicks” is a phrase used to illustrate the way Capital Plan 2027 investments will ensure school buildings are safe and well-maintained ("bricks") while supporting students and staff with the resources needed to learn or teach in an increasingly technology-driven world ("clicks"). Due to the extreme growth of new students, previous capital plans primarily were used to build new schools and add classrooms, increase safety and security, and upgrade technology equipment and the supporting infrastructure. All of these areas are still important and continue to be prioritized in Capital Plan 2027. The difference is how they are intentionally being integrated to complement each other within the learning environment.

    What determined the priorities for Capital Plan 2027?
    Facility Condition Assessment was conducted at 100 facilities owned by Fulton County Schools to identify deficiencies and systems’ anticipated replacement needs. When evaluating existing facilities, each school was given a ranking based on the five-year Facility Condition Index (FCI) score as well as critical system needs. These scores are based on a 0-100 scale, from worst to best. This scale allows the facilities to be ranked in terms of their physical condition and helps identify those facilities that need to be considered for renovation, replacement, or reconfiguration. It is an effective, data-driven way to prioritize and determine the actions that need to be taken at a given facility.

    Similarly, a multi-tiered assessment of the district's technology infrastructure and security, audio/video equipment, and instructional applications was conducted to ensure that Capital Plan 2027 investment areas are aligned with global and national trends in K-12 education technology. Safety audits also were conducted to prioritize the district's safety and security needs for individual schools and administrative buildings. Transportation and furniture/equipment needs also were assessed through internal auditing and through evaluation of their age and condition.

    What is a SPLOST or ESPLOST?
    A "Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax" (commonly called 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. In Fulton County Schools, the funding program is called ESPLOST, with the "E" standing for "Education." This helps differentiate this particular sales tax from others, such as a transportation sales tax (TSPLOST). Unless it is an ESPLOST, those sales taxes do not raise funds to support Fulton County Schools capital improvements. 

    What does ESPLOST pay for?
    In Fulton County Schools, the approved ESPLOST is 1%, which is 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 ESPLOST collection period?
    The current sales tax to fund the previous capital plan project list (Capital Plan 2022) began July 1, 2017. It will end on June 30, 2022, unless Fulton County voters approve its continuation. By law, the tax cannot last longer than what voters approved

    Why does ESPLOST 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. These investments positioned Fulton County Schools to successfully navigate a global pandemic, especially as other school systems locally and nationally struggled with a lacking technology infrastructure and limited student hardware.

    What are the differences between a sales tax and other options, such as a bond referendum, for example?
    Fulton County voters approved the first county-wide ESPLOST in 1997, allowing it to become the primary funding source for capital projects instead of relying on bonds or other long-term loans. ESPLOST has been the primary funding choice since it is a no-interest, pay-as-you-go financing option. This has reduced the Fulton County Board of Education’s reliance on property taxes or millage rates to fund school improvements, as the tax burden is shared more fairly among property and non-property owners, including those who visit Fulton County to work, shop or eat.

    Aside from ESPLOST, other funding options include approving a General Obligation (GO) bond or for the School Board to raise taxes by increasing the Maintenance & Operation millage. GO bonds require repayment with principal and interest and can take decades to pay off; for example, the last bond secured by Fulton County Schools occurred in 1998 and was recently paid off in January 2021. Similarly, raising the Maintenance & Operation millage rate can lead to higher property taxes for homeowners.

    Why did the Fulton County School Board choose to pursue another ESPLOST referendum rather than another funding option? 

    School system funding 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.
    1. 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. 

    The school system receives some funding from the state for operational expenses but it is not sufficient to cover the cost of capital project needs, thereby requiring the school system to seek additional funding. These funds can be raised by securing a long-term bond, raising millage rates, or through a voter-approved ESPLOST. In June 2021, the Fulton County Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution to ask voters to approve the extension of the existing five-year education sales tax since some of the other funding options, such as bonds or other long-term loans, have more expenses to taxpayers. 

    Could the School Board use the ESPLOST penny sales tax 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, 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 does ESPLOST 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 was able to completely retire its long-term debt in January 2021 thanks to ESPLOST.

    When will Fulton County voters decide whether to extend ESPLOST?

    The question will be on the November 2, 2021, ballot.

    How can others get answers to specific capital plan or ESPLOST-related questions?
    Anyone with questions can email ESPLOST@fultonschools.org.