E-SPLOST blanks: 61% of funds for proposed school tax projects still not specified

After adopting a resolution in May calling for a Nov. 6 vote to continue the 1-cent E-SPLOST sales tax, the Fayette County Board of Education is waiting until the last few days before the referendum to flesh out the list of projects the tax extension is supposed to pay for.

At this point more than 61 percent of the proposed tax extension is not earmarked for any specific projects.

With the extended tax carrying a maximum collection ceiling of $107 million, the school system has provided a list of facilities improvements that total $41.5 million of the projected revenues. Dollar totals for the other E-SPLOST categories have not been determined as of yet.

The current E-SPLOST expires in April 2014 and carries a $115 million collection ceiling, though actual collections are expected to total approximately $95 million — $20 million less than expected — due to the recession.

If the referendum passes this year, it would extend 1-cent sales tax collections through April 2019. Under Georgia law, if it fails, the board could try again and have it included on another ballot in January 2014 at the earliest. [Sentence corrected to reflect that a year and a month must pass before a second referendum could be scheduled.]*

The school system’s E-SPLOST committee recommended projects under categories that include technology and facility improvements/upgrades, purchasing new school buses, instructional materials and textbooks and lowering the bond debt, according to the school system’s website.

Agreed in May by the school board, the bond indebtedness pay-down would not exceed $10 million. Per requirement, the maximum bond debt must be stated when the resolution to establish the E-SPLOST is adopted.

The other area where a dollar amount for projects have been identified is in the area of facility improvements. Listed on the school system’s website are both current and future E-SPLOST projects. Current projects total $17.65 million and include HVAC and/or roof work at North Fayette Elementary, McIntosh High, Burch Elementary, Flat Rock Middle and Sandy Creek High.

Future E-SPLOST facility projects, from 2015-2018, total $41.5 million and include roof and HVAC work at Braelinn Elementary and Whitewater Middle and roof and HVAC work and renovations such as painting, replacing floors, replacing suspended ceiling systems and lights at five other schools. Those schools include Kedron Elementary, Spring Hill Elementary, Fayette County High, Starr’s Mill High and Rising Starr Middle.

As for the other dollar amounts assigned to the other E-SPLOST categories, school system spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach said Tuesday that no list is available for those categories, adding that she did not know if one would be created.

Though proposed at a meeting earlier this year, the board decided not to include artificial turf in the E-SPLOST list of projects.

The current E-SPLOST was approved by voters in November 2008 and became effective in April 2009.

*[Story corrected to reflect Georgia law that sets the earliest date the board of education could resubmit a referendum to the public after a defeat.]