ESPLOST Vote is Tuesday, Nov. 7
What is an Education SPLOST (ESPLOST)?
An Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) allows local school districts the option to ask voters for ability to levy and collect a one percent sales tax to help fund school facility and equipment improvements. It can be used to pay for capital projects or to retire debt, but cannot be used to pay operating expenses such as salaries. ESPLOSTs are enacted by referendum.
When is the ESPLOST vote?
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. Polls open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Would the proposed ESPLOST be a tax increase?
NO! This is NOT a NEW tax. If approved, the sales tax would remain at current level. A "yes" vote would simply extend the current 1-penny sales tax for education for five years, or until $23 million is collected - whichever comes first. Collection of ESPLOST extension would begin only after the current ESPLOST ends in March, 2019.
Why do we need to extend our current ESPLOST?
The Monroe County School System has made many improvements in school facilities with the previous ESPLOST. If citizens approve extension of the current ESPLOST, the Board will continue current levels of maintenance and improvements to its school buildings, facilities and grounds, infrastructure systems such as technology, HVAC, and transportation.
Why an ESPLOST?
Education SPLOST is not a property tax. It is 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 Monroe County, including our numerous visitors on Interstate 75.
What will the school system do with the money raised from the ESPLOST extension?
The Board of Education will continue its current level of maintenance and upkeep to ensure all school facilities are clean, safe and modern. A major project will be improvements to Mary Persons High School. This will include construction of a new annex building to extend the life of our flagship school in its current location for many years to come. Other funds will pay for renovations and improvements at all schools, safety and security equipment, upgrades to instructional technology, school buses, and textbooks and other instructional resources.
How much money will be raised and how long will this sales tax be in place?
ESPLOST extension will last for five years (April 2019 to March 2024) or until a collection cap of $23 million is reached -- whichever comes first.
Why is the school system proposing to sell bonds in the ESPLOST extension?
By issuing bonds, the school system will be able to immediately undertake the improvements and expansion of Mary Persons High School. Without bonds, the school system would need to delay this project for several years. Currently, interest rates are most favorable. Issuance of bonds also helps to avoid construction cost inflation.
Why isn't ESPLOST revenue being used for teacher salaries and curriculum development?
State laws prohibit using ESPLOST proceeds for salaries or instructional supplies. However, ESPLOST does free up funds in the general fund that would otherwise be used for maintenance, renovations, and other capital projects. This helps the school board keep its ad valorem tax millage rate down.
Has the current ESPLOST been a success?
Absolutely! Since 2014, the Board has used ESPLOST funds to completely renovate the Banks Stephens Middle School campus, Hubbard Elementary School, and the Mary Persons High School Gymnasium; constructed the Monroe County Schools Fine Arts Center; purchased computers, servers and other technology components; improved safety at all campuses with secure main entrances; purchased school buses and maintenance vehicles; replaced several playgrounds; purchased musical instruments; and maintained/replaced multiple heating and air units.
Why should people who do not have children in school support the ESPLOST extension?
The ESPLOST extension helps keep property taxes stable. Additionally, the children are not the only benefactors of good schools. The social and economic strength of a community are greatly influenced by the school system. Good schools mean well-prepared citizens, a strong labor market, and an inviting atmosphere for living and working. One of the key questions asked by industrial/commercial or residential prospects looking to move into a community is, "What is the quality of the schools?"
Is the school system eligible for any state funds for facilities?
Yes. The work to take place at Mary Persons High School will actually help us earn state modernization funding in future years. These additional funds, plus the ESPLOST funds used for improvements, will help the system make MPHS like a brand new facility. This will ensure that Mary Persons High School serves the community and its students for many years to come.
Will the school system need to renew the ESPLOST in future years?
Yes . . . and No. This will be a future Board of Education and community decision. The ESPLOST has been most beneficial to Monroe County Schools and there will be other facility and equipment needs in the future. The BOE and the community will need to work together to maintain the school system as the best in Middle Georgia.
Is the school system ESPLOST different from the Monroe County Commission SPLOST?
Yes. The Education SPLOST is a special purpose tax approved by citizens exclusively for improvements of school facilities and equipment. The county's SPLOST is designed to fund county projects identified by the Monroe County Commissioners and other community entities.
What would happen if the ESPLOST did not pass?
Many of the proposed projects would not be accomplished. In Monroe County, the ESPLOST produces revenue equal to 3.25 mills of tax each year. Without the ESPLOST revenue, the Board of Education would be faced with the decision to raise property tax rates to fund maintenance, renovation and capital projects. Ultimately, there would be many lost opportunities for students and projects would cost more in the future.