A variety of projects are being proposed for the 2017 Education-only Special Purpose, Local Option Sales Tax fund on the ballot this November, and the school board wants to make sure the numbers all add up this time around.
The same company who consulted on the choice for a new superintendent are involved in making sure the figures for the 2017 E-SPLOST will draw enough to pay for projects and the bonds sold to get up front funds to cover construction costs.
James Wilson of Education Planners was back before the board for their combined October work and regular sessions to talk about numbers, trends and how the consultants are doing the diligence on the extension of the one-cent sales tax past this year.
“This is all about student welfare and all about academic success,” he said.
The E-SPLOST extension would carry the one cent sales tax through it’s expiration in 2021 for several more years, and looks to provide funds to pay off bond sales to cover costs of a new fine arts wing at Cedartown High School, a new agriculture education building at Rockmart High School, a number of maintenance-related issues like heating and air conditioning repairs, and roof repairs as well.
Athletic facilities at Cedartown and Rockmart middle and high schools would also get updates, with track resurfacing at both high school a major priority, and upgrading of playing fields and their concessions, restrooms, and the press box as well.
Education Planners are looking at this round of proposed E-SPLOST funding through the extension on the ballot in two ways.
First, they wanted to make sure that the expectations of economic growth and therefore spending are in line with what the Polk School District needs and is proposing, and second to ensure that construction work will fall into budget without overruns and that all projects pay for themselves. Additionally, Wilson talked about negative growth during SPLOST V in 2016, but said that the fund has exceeded its forecasting for the first part of 2017.
He added that with the state’s economist having made the projections, it adds some assurance to the voters that their pennies collected on transactions are well spent. Wilson also explained why SPLOST had seen some downturns in projected collections in the past years, and how the fund is recovering.
“He first tells us that there are some weaknesses in the economy, or at least there were,” Wilson said. “But going forward, with an increase in food prices expected, that will strengthen the fund as far as the tax base is concerned, and gasoline prices are also expected to increase as well and that should help the sales tax as well.”
Projected growth for Polk County is a good reason why Polk County should continue to allow for the E-SPLOST, Wilson said, despite some numbers decrease during the economic downturn, but that the increases over the past years show a need for the funds, especially with growth in the elementary population happening now who will need the new construction as they grow older.
The SPLOST VI fund being proposed to voters would stretch from 2021 through 2026, and taken in no more than $25 million to cover the cost of construction via the bond sales, which would be paid back with interest over the life of the fund if voters give their approval in November.
Superintendent Laurie Atkins thanked Education Planners for their work on the E-SPLOST presentation, and board members had no immediate questions other than to see estimates for the proposed fund for 2017.
Last week’s Board of Education meeting also featured the approval of a pair of field trips for later in the year, when students from Van Wert Elementary will head to the BETA Club convention in Savannah in November. A second trip scheduled for the final week of May 2018 will see students taking a Broadway tour in the Rockmart High School drama department.
Check back for more on fundraisers for that effort coming soon. Board members also got an update on the latest financial report for the school district with an August breakdown. Revenues were 12.52 percent less than expected but that was offset with a decrease in expenditures, which were at 12.53 percent less than projected.
The general fund balance was $5,759,929.09.
Board of Education members will gather again during the first Tuesday in November for their coming work and community input session.