The Board of Education approved the ESPLOST VII Resolution and call for Election on March 21, 2023. The resolution will be for a continuation of a one percent sales tax for educational purposes. ESPLOST stands for Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. Early Voting will begin February 27, 2023.
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An Education Special Purpose Location Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) allows local school districts the option to ask voters for the ability to levy and collect a one percent sales and use tax to help fund school improvements. ESPLOSTs are enacted by local referendum. They can be used to pay for capital projects, buses, technology and retire debt, but cannot be used to pay maintenance and operating expenses, such as teacher salaries, maintenance, supplies, and utilities.
No. If approved, the sales tax for education would remain at its current level. A "Yes" vote would simply extend the current 1% sales tax for education for an additional five years or until the $150 million has been collected, whichever comes first. Collection of the ESPLOST renewal would begin after the current ESPLOST ends in September 2026.
The main purposes of extending the current ESPLOST are to (a) continue to pay prior bond debt service (b) continue facilities progress (c) new and replacement transportation vehicles and equipment and (d) increase and replace technology throughout the district. If debt service is not paid with sales tax, then property taxes would have to be increased by operation of Georgia Law by approximately 2.5 mills to meet the annual bond debt service requirements. BCSS is proud to say that we have maintained or cut the millage rate since 2007 because of good stewardship by our sta and because the citizens of Barrow County have supported the extension of this ESPLOST.
Tuesday, March 21, 2023. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Prior to March 21, early voting will be available from February 27 through March 17, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday voting on March 4 and 11. The deadline to register to vote is February 21.
Without ESPLOST collections, the Board would be forced by operation of Georgia Law to institute a bond debt service millage for the currently outstanding bonds in the range of 2 to 3 mills. This would, by operation of Georgia Law, be on top of the M&O millage which funds operational costs such as salaries, maintenance, supplies, and utilities. Additionally, other facility and equipment improvements would not be accomplished, resulting in lost opportunities for our students. To fund these opportunities without an extension of the ESPLOST, the Board would have to raise M&O property taxes. Both property taxpayers and students would be penalized if the ESPLOST renewal did not pass.
By operation of Georgia Law, bond debt service millage is separate and in addition to M&O property taxes. The actual bond millage rate that would be necessary if the ESPLOST renewal failed would be dependent upon the size of the overall tax digest and average collection rate. Nevertheless, at an anticipated 2.5 mills, $300,000 of taxable, fair market value, property would result in an additional $300 of annual bond debt service levy ($300,000FMV @40%= 80,000AV times 0.0025). Both property owners and those who rent pay ad valorem taxes either directly or indirectly as an imbedded component of rent.
The education sales tax is not a property tax. However, it provides property tax relief for this five year period using ESPLOST receipts to make the debt service payments, eliminating a separate debt service millage levy; and provides a method of funding the cost of educational improvements that everyone, not just property owners, contributes to. Additionally, the sales tax is paid by everyone who shops or stays in Barrow County, including our numerous visitors.
As stated above, the most important project would be the continued payment on previously incurred bond debt. Currently, annual debt service is approximately $9.4 million. The District wants to pay debt service with sales tax collections - not additional property taxes. Available ESPLOST renewal collections would also be used for the acquisition, construction, and equipping of new schools and facilities as needed for growth, including but not limited to new school buildings, physical education/athletic facilities and equipment, classrooms, lunchrooms, gymnasiums, and auditoriums, renovations and equipment for existing facilities, and the acquisition and purchase of any property necessary and desirable therefore, both real and personal property, including but not limited to technology, safety and security equipment and transportation facilities and equipment creating better and safer learning environments for our students.
The ESPLOST extension is for $150 million of collections or 5 years, whichever comes first.
Prior ESPLOSTs have enabled new construction of Bethlehem ES, County Line ES, Haymon Morris MS, Bear Creek MS, SIMS Academy, the new Russell MS, Winder ES, BASA and renovations and additions at Winder-Barrow HS, Apalachee HS, Auburn ES, Holsenbeck ES, Statham ES, Yargo ES, Kennedy ES and Bramlett ES, Westside MS addition, resurfaced tennis courts and tracks WBHS and AHS, a portion of the Innovation Amphitheater, enhanced transportation facilities and equipment, purchase of new buses, technology improvements and equipment, elimination of debt service millage for the 5-year period beginning 2021, and numerous other District-wide improvements. Currently, an extension of BASA and completion of a new elementary school is funded with the current ESPLOST.
State laws prohibit using ESPLOST proceeds for teacher salaries or maintenance. However, approving this sales tax renewal will help free up funds to meet existing financial obligations without having to rely on excessive ad valorem taxes.
State Funding is available to our system for new schools and additions as growth dictates, as well as renovations and modications, but these funds only cover a portion of the total cost of eligible improvement projects. Local funds must be combined with State dollars in order to complete capital improvement projects.
By selling bonds, the District will be able to immediately start remodeling our existing schools that are over 20 years old, add additional classrooms and schools as growth demands, and to immediately address some of its most dire needs instead of waiting for the proceeds to be collected.
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