The Catoosa County school board has nailed down the list of projects it plans to carry out with funds from another round of ESPLOST — or Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax — if voters approve the tax in March.
The Board of Education listens to stakeholders to determine ESPLOST projects. With the COVID health crisis, the board published a video and established a special email to receive stakeholder input.
“We published a video as an alternative to a community meeting,” Schools Superintendent Denia Reese said. “However, this format enabled more people to review projects and provide input.”
Reese said the video was viewed 800 times and more than 500 people provided input about potential projects.
Georgia’s General Assembly passed legislation in 1996 allowing school systems to present ESPLOST, a one-cent sales tax, to voters to fund capital outlay expenditures. Catoosa citizens first approved the sales tax in 1997, and they have overwhelmingly supported continuing this penny sales tax every five years.
ESPLOST VI will appear on the ballot on March 16, 2021, and, if approved by voters, is projected to generate about $40 million during its five-year lifespan.
“The Board of Education and I would like to thank this community for continuing to support ESPLOST to provide excellent, well-maintained, and safe schools,” Reese said.
ESPLOST revenue may only be used for capital outlay expenditures, including new classrooms and schools, technology, buses, security equipment, and maintenance. ESPLOST may not be used for general operating expenses or teacher salaries.
With ESPLOST, visitors who shop, eat, or buy gas in the county are sharing the expense of building and maintaining the county’s schools with property owners, school officials point out. ESPLOST pennies have provided excellent, safe, and well-maintained facilities for Catoosa County children, they said. Since ESPLOST funds capital projects and maintenance, the Board of Education has maintained or lowered property taxes every year since 2015, they said.
“School boards and citizens across the state understand the benefit of ESPLOST,” Reese said. “In Georgia, 157 of the state’s 159 counties have passed ESPLOST. The majority of Georgia counties have an 8 percent sales tax. Continuing ESPLOST means Catoosa’s sales tax remains at 7%”
Based on community input, the school board, at its Nov. 3 meeting, approved the following projects:
Boynton Elementary School expansion and revitalization
Boynton Elementary is currently the county’s oldest school. Additionally, the school has reached enrollment capacity and the Boynton attendance zone is growing. Phase I of the project will create new classrooms to accommodate enrollment growth, and Phase II will include demolition of the existing building and construction of a new two-story building further back on the property, away from the road for student safety and to improve traffic flow for parents.
LFO Performing Arts Theater
To maintain facility equitability, a theater will be built for Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. This theater will provide opportunities to showcase the talent of the LFO Warrior Band students, and with this new venue, drama will be added as an opportunity for LFO students to participate in the arts. The theaters at Heritage and Ringgold High School are used extensively by all students in the attendance zone, as well as community activities.
The From HERE to CAREER! College and Career Academy
Georgia College and Career Academies provide the opportunity for high school students to explore career options while earning college credit and technical college certificates from Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Dalton State College. Students who complete career pathways will be highly skilled to enter the workforce or highly prepared to continue post-secondary education.
Students will have college and career opportunities in the following: The School of Law & Justice and Emergency Management; The School of Nursing, Sports Medicine, and Therapeutic Services; The School of Information Technology and Cybersecurity; The School of Architecture and Construction; The School of Welding and Machine Tool Technology; The School of Education; The School of Logistics, Distribution, and Supply Chain Management; and The School of Industrial Systems Technology, Robotics, and Mechatronics.
The school system provided an individual technology device for every student in 2016 with ESPLOST V. Students benefited from technology being integrated with instruction daily, and they were prepared to continue learning remotely when schools had to close for the COVID pandemic in March 2020. ESPLOST VI will fund new iPads and Chromebooks for every student as well as updated classroom technology.
Safety, security, and maintenance
ESPLOST VI will continue to fund safety and security projects, buses, and routine school maintenance including roofs and HVAC units.