E-SPLOST and the Golden Goose

In November we will be voting on whether to maintain a sales tax for one of our county’s shining assets, the public school system. Typically chambers of commerce don’t like our businesses paying more taxes, but when the tax supports the key asset for attracting jobs and investment, we understand that not voting for the E-SPLOST will likely be more costly in the long run.

There is no doubt, the performance of our school system is the reason why many people move to Fayette County. I wager it is the reason a home in Fayette County sells for a good bit more than a similar home in a neighboring county. Why would we not continue the sales tax that helps make sure our children have a good roof over their heads while at school and the technology needed to function in today’s world?

The project list for the E-SPLOST is readily available for the public to review. More than half of the dollars go to facility improvements, including renovations for HVAC, lighting, flooring and roofs. There are gyms for schools without gyms. There are classrooms for schools using trailers.

About a quarter of the capital projects involve technology for the classroom and the students. While classroom improvements are good for the learning environment, providing technology for learning directly impacts the curriculum delivery for our students that keeps them competitive in today’s job market.

Georgia has 159 counties. Currently all but one (Burke County) has an E-SPLOST. Having a variety of revenue streams helps Georgia’s school systems deal with fluctuations in the state budget. It also brings in revenue from those not living in Fayette County.

I am constantly amazed at the number of awards and accolades the students, schools and faculty at Fayette County public schools receive. The cost per student is in line with the state average.

The Board of Education makes an effort to keep schools and classrooms small and to hire the best teachers so our students succeed. They invest in the classroom, not the central office. In fact, last year Fayette County’s average cost per student for central administration was $346 while the state average was $988. Passing the E-SPLOST will help keep funds now going to the classroom from being diverted to pay for capital improvements.

Please vote yes in the upcoming election for E-SPLOST. Please continue the investment in the capital improvements and technology so that more operating dollars can go to teaching.

[Carlotta Ungaro is president and CEO of the Fayette Chamber of Commerce, located in Fayetteville. The Chamber represents almost 800 member businesses and organizations and strives “to promote business and enhance economic and community development through leadership, service and advocacy for Fayette County.”]