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Board Approves Resolution for Extension of Education Sales Tax

At its June 17 meeting, the Fulton County Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution that asks voters on November 2, 2021, to approve the extension of the existing five-year education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax).

The decision follows the Board’s approval last week of Capital Plan 2027, which outlines the facility improvements needed throughout the district (including new schools and additions) from 2022 to 2027 as well as the technology, transportation, classroom equipment, and safety upgrades necessary to support learning. The Board, however, had not yet endorsed a way to fund the $1.2 billion plan and moved discussion to the June 17 board meeting.

“As elected officials, this School Board is committed to fiscal accountability, and we believe SPLOST provides the most responsible way to fund capital improvements for our schools,” said President Julia C. Bernath. “For the past five capital programs, SPLOST has been the primary funding choice since it is a no-interest, pay-as-you-go financing option. It also limits the impact on property owners who pay school taxes by allowing the burden to be shared by all consumers who make taxable purchases in Fulton County.”

School systems, such as Fulton County, have placed SPLOST referendums since 1996 on the ballot so voters can have more choice in how school improvements are funded. Before then, school systems had limited choices – general obligation (GO) bond referendums and raising taxes. GO bonds are a type of municipal bond that 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, more taxpayer burden is associated with raising the Maintenance & Operation millage rate as it can lead to higher property taxes for homeowners. By comparison, SPLOST does not create any long-term debt nor does it raise property taxes.

Since its inception, SPLOST has funded 51 new schools and 63 building additions and hundreds of systems replacement and upgrade projects in Fulton County Schools. The funding was also integral in providing one-to-one devices for students, putting FCS in a strong position for remote learning as the COVID-19 pandemic changed instruction.

If passed by voters in November, the next SPLOST would be a continuation of the existing tax and not a new/additional one. The current sales tax ends on June 30, 2022, and if approved, collection of the next SPLOST would begin July 1, 2022, and allow for a seamless transition of capital funding so that project schedules are not impacted.

Projects identified in Capital Plan 2027, which would be SPLOST-funded if approved by voters, include:

Facility Master Plan

School Replacement/Reconfiguration
The following schools are slated for replacement and/or to be reconfigured under Capital Plan 2027. The cost related to facility condition, renovations to meet educational requirements, and/or capacity needs makes replacement or conversion the appropriate option.

  • S. L. Lewis Elementary School
  • Holcomb Bridge Middle School/Haynes Bridge Middle School
  • Camp Creek Middle School
  • North Springs High School
  • Existing school conversions to K-8 Instructional Model

Major Renovations
Renovation projects for 18 schools and two non-instructional facilities will address deficiencies and systems’ replacements as needed, such as:

  • HVAC systems
  • Roofing projects
  • Fire alarm and intercom systems
  • Electrical upgrades
  • Plumbing and restrooms
  • Paint
  • Flooring
  • Ceilings and lighting
  • Cabinets
  • Doors and hardware
  • Windows
  • Paving and sidewalks

Infrastructure Improvements & Minor Renovations
An additional 18 schools will receive renovations to address specific critical system deficiencies, such as:

  • HVAC systems
  • Roofing projects
  • Fire alarm and intercom systems
  • Freezer/cooler replacements
  • Sitework improvements

 

Renovations to Support Instructional Programs
Many schools will receive program-related renovations to better support instruction and to help align schools with the school district’s educational specifications. These include:

  • Upgrades to elementary school media centers
  • Modifications of facilities to allow adjustments/expansion of Career, Technical, Agricultural Education (CTAE) and special needs programs
  • Renovations of audio-visual systems at high school theaters not previously upgraded
  • High school field turf and track surface replacement as needed
  • Artificial turf installation at all high school practice fields


District-Wide Facility Efforts

  • Facility-related IT improvements, such as cooling systems and generator backups
  • Utility conservation, such as LED lighting installation
  • High school stadium evaluation, with renovations as necessary
  • Facility utilization to leverage existing space and address teacher professional development needs


Additional Items

  • Flexibility to address unanticipated capital issues or other situations with a yet-to-be-determined outcome also are included in Capital Plan 2027, such as:
    • Emerging/unanticipated needs
    • Coordination and mitigation strategies associated with GDOT projects
    • COVID-19 considerations


Technology
Technology enhances our students’ experiences in the classroom and also supports instruction and business operations. Ongoing attention is needed as systems and hardware need replacement or become inefficient due to age. Capital Plan 2027 focuses on three technology investment areas — Access (hardware), Infrastructure (networking and connectivity), and Information and Instruction Tools (software and apps).

Access

  • Desktop computers/laptops/ tablets (collectively called “devices”)
    • Individual devices for Grades 3 -12 and classroom carts for Grades PreK-2
    • Devices for teachers
    • Devices for district administrative staff, maintenance, transportation, and school police officers
  • Classroom equipment that supports learning, such as interactive projectors and audio/visual tools that record instruction
  • Audio/visual equipment for large spaces
  • Equipment for CTAE, fine arts and elementary school computer labs
  • Wireless access points
  • Network printers and 3D printers

Infrastructure

  • Data management and utilization
  • Data center upgrades
  • Cloud-based software platforms
  • Disaster recovery services
  • Firewall and web content filtering
  • Device management systems
  • Managed print services
  • Device hardware support
  • School network refresh
  • Network and connectivity hardware
  • Network-based telecommunications
  • Structured cabling

Information/Instruction Tools

  • Learning Management System (Canvas)
  • Single sign-on capability
  • Enterprise Resource Planner (FCS Atlas)
  • Content management systems
  • Productivity and collaboration software
  • Website workflow and customer relations management
  • Student information system (Infinite Campus)
  • District-level and individual school websites
  • Learning object repository (Safari Montage)
  • Professional development

 

Safety & Security

Safety and emergency preparedness continues to be a high priority for Fulton County Schools. Past capital plans have included high-tech video camera system upgrades in schools and school buses, visitor ID management, safety planning and communication tools, patrol vehicles, and specialized equipment for FCS school police officers. Capital Plan 2027 adds to these investments by replacing or updating safety components that are near the end of their life cycle.

  • Automated external defibrillators (AEDs)
  • Door keycard access controls for school staff
  • Integration of door buzzer systems with new video surveillance systems
  • Renewal/replacement IP cameras for existing video systems
  • Updated equipment for campus police officers, including ballistic vests and communication radios
  • Replacement of vehicles needed for emergency response
  • Installation of safety and security window film

 

Transportation

In the previous capital plan, Fulton County Schools began replacing its aging diesel school buses with propane-powered models that have student seat belts. The result is a safer bus fleet that is more cost-effective to operate and friendlier to the environment. Capital Plan 2027 continues that effort.

  • Replacement of diesel buses with propane-powered school buses with student seat belts
  • Support equipment, including upgrades to automated fuel management system, shop equipment, and bus cameras/communication systems
  • Replacement of support vehicles for Transportation, Maintenance and Warehouse


Furniture & Equipment

Replacements are needed as furniture and equipment come to the end of their useful life. Capital Plan 2027 also calls for furnishings and equipment to support new schools being constructed.

  • Purchase of equipment needed to support curriculum needs
  • Replacement of furniture or equipment that is no longer in useable condition


More information about past and current SPLOST-funded projects is posted online at www.fultonschools.org/SPLOST.