Fayette County


ESPLOST vote vital to schools’ success says BOE

A penny can go a long way. Tuesday, November 7, voters will have the chance the make their pennies count when they vote to extend the ESPLOST for the Fayette County Board of Education.

“This is absolutely not a new tax,” said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Barrow speaking at Thursday night’s Fayetteville City Council meeting. “We are not asking for another penny, it’s just maintaining what’s already there.”

The ESPLOST is a continuation of a current one-cent sales tax. ESPLOST 1 was passed in 2008 and collected until April 2014. ESPLOST 2, after it was passed in November 2012, went into effect at its 1’s conclusion and is scheduled to end in March 2019, though it may hit its collections cap sooner. ESPLOST 3 would continue in the same pattern for five years as a penny sales tax dedicated for use on school facility improvements. Currently 158 out of Georgia’s 159 counties have one in place. Because of its widespread use, the state accounts for counties to use it in their funding models.

Barrow called making Fayette the best school system possible the reason he gets out of bed in the morning, and the ESPLOST is one of their best tools.

“I believe that our children deserve the best education possible,” Barrow said. “I think we’re pretty good, but I think we can be world class.”

Funds collected can be used on renovations, technology upgrades, equipment, school bus purchases, and bond debt, but it cannot be used on salaries.

“It’s a good way to fund projects that we wouldn’t normally get to do in the general fund budget,” Barrow said.

Because it is a sales tax, anyone who shops in Fayette would be helping to fund our schools, as everyone who buys goods and services contributes. An estimate pegs the percentage of non-Fayette residents contributing to the tax in the 20 to 40 percent range.

“It’s a consumption tax,” Barrow said. “If you go to the Avenues or the Pavilion and you look at all the tags in those parking lots, you see Clayton, you see Henry, you see Coweta, you see Spalding. All of those folks that are here and buy goods and services in our community, that helps support us.”

ESPLOST 3 would bring in a projected $145 million. The bulk would go towards facility additions, renovations, and improvements at $74 million. HVAC, roof, and other renovations are anticipated at Fayette County High, Peeples Elementary, Oak Grove Elementary, Fayetteville Elementary, and Inman Elementary. Classrooms additions are slated for J.C. Booth Middle and McIntosh High, with Sandy Creek and Whitewater also as needed. Technology would account for $37 million, and the rest would go to furniture and equipment ($10 million), textbooks and instruction materials ($8 million), transportation ($8 million), debt reduction ($5 million), and safety and security ($3 million).

ESPLOST 1 collected $97 million and helped fund facilities projects like the new transportation building, the second floor bridge connection and stadium bleachers at McIntosh, a multi-purpose building at Whitewater, and the in-progress auditorium at Fayette County High School, along with HVAC and roof work at four schools. Technology and equipment has been another focus, particularly 21st Century classroom tools, totaling $28 million.

ESPLOST 2 is expected to collect roughly $107 million by the time it is capped. Among the many projects, HVAC and roof works at seven schools has totaled $41.5 million, and new gyms for North Fayette and Peachtree City Elementary total close to $6 million. In-progress installations of Connected Classroom technology will total $10 million.

More information on the ESPLOST can be found on the school system’s website at www.fcboe.org.

“I want you to be informed,” Barrow said. “I think if the people really take the time to read what’s going on and what we’ve done in the past, I think they will see that this is a good investment for our community.”

By Christopher Dunn

Managing Editor Christopher Dunn has been with the Fayette County News since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Victory magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.