SPLOST -- or Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax -- was first enacted by the Georgia Legislature in 1985 as a method for governmental agencies to fund capital outlay projects. In 1996, the law was broadened to include school systems. In Fulton County Schools, that sales tax is called ESPLOST, with the "E" short for "Education."
Fulton County voters approved the first county-wide education ESPLOST in 1997, allowing it to become the primary funding source for capital projects instead of relying on bonds or other long-term loans. 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.
In Fulton County, ESPLOST is a one-penny sales tax levied for the purpose of funding new or replacement schools, building additions, and renovations to existing facilities. A large portion of the funds also is earmarked to address aging technology within schools and to support the district's personalized learning initiatives.
Since it began in Fulton County Schools, ESPLOST has generated more than $3.2 billion to fund:
- 51 new or replacement schools
- 63 building additions
- Investments that support students and teachers in the classroom as well as district business operations
- Hundreds of systems replacement and upgrade projects throughout the school system
- Nearly 76,000 one-to-one devices issued to students, putting FCS in a strong position for remote learning as the COVID-19 pandemic changed instruction
- Security enhancements, including building entrance access control, visitor management, and improved video camera systems, lighting, and fencing
- Safer, most cost efficient and environmentally friendly school bus fleet
By the end of the current capital program ("Capital Plan 2022"), Fulton County Schools will have:
- More than 65,000 personal learning devices (tablets and laptops) distributed to students
- All bond debt paid off, making Fulton County one of only a few school districts in Georgia to be free of long-term debt
- New or replacement schools opened or in progress – Innovation Academy, South Fulton STEM School, Crabapple Middle School, Riverwood International Charter School, Conley Hills Elementary School and McClarin High School
- 60 schools renovated, including a refresh of media centers in all middle and high schools
- Competition tracks and synthetic turf fields replaced at high school stadiums
- Analog security cameras upgraded to digital video surveillance systems with remote access
- Older diesel school buses retired and replaced by 350 new propane powered buses with three-point safety belts
- 27 police vehicles added to fleet to increase safety response
- Redesigned district website and new school website systems
- Full list posted at https://www.fultonschools.org/SPLOSTpriorities
ESPLOST generates more than $180 million annually and is expected to have raised $860 million for Fulton County Schools by the time the five-year tax ends on June 30, 2022.