In unofficial results, with 100% of 156 precincts counted, the E-SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education) was passed by a wide margin of 74.69% to 25.31% in the countywide election on Nov. 3, 2015.
The measure will continue the penny tax that has been in place since first approved by voters in 1997. Previously, voters approved renewals in 2001, 2006, and 2011. The current E-SPLOST sunsets on June 30, 2017. The newly approved extension will fund projects from 2017 to 2022.
As the returns came in on Nov. 3 and it became clear that the E-SPLOST would be renewed, CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks shared some thoughts on the win. "We are pleased that Gwinnett County voters have once again shown their support for our schools, voting to continue the education special purpose local option sales tax,” he said. “A penny has made a difference in our ability to effectively serve students, and, thanks to our community, it will continue to do so through 2022. This was not just a win for the school system… it was a win for our community. More importantly, it was a win for our students who will benefit from new schools, new classrooms, and additional technology.
He added his thanks to all involved, saying, "I would like to thank the volunteers who spearheaded the campaign-- [Kids Count Campaign Chair] Sean Murphy, [Campaign Treasurer] Norwood Davis, [Campaign Legal Advisor] Mike Levengood, our cluster captains, and the many others who joined forces to make sure that the E-SPLOST renewal passed. We also would like to thank the voters who made the trip to the polls today. Their votes made a difference and have sent a clear message that Gwinnett kids count."
On election night, School Board Chairman Dr. Mary Kay Murphy addressed a group of school system and community leaders who had gathered to watch the returns as they came in, saying, "We are so thankful for this reaffirmation by our voters, our parents, and community who so support public education. We are blessed beyond our belief. Thank you to each one of you for your great leadership and your long-standing commitment to Gwinnett County Public Schools. On behalf of our Board of Education, tremendous thanks."
Over the years, Gwinnett students and school communities have benefited from the E-SPLOST which has provided thousands of needed classrooms in nearly 60 new schools and nearly 80 school additions, as well as technology improvements that are essential to teaching and learning.
The E-SPLOST is collected on all retail sales in Gwinnett County so that everyone who makes a purchase in the county, including visitors, contributes to the support of local schools.
By law, an E-SPLOST can be used only for certain capital projects, like buildings, furnishings, buses, and computers. It cannot be used for salaries or for the day-to-day operational expenses of a school system.
The E-SPLOST measure was the only item on the county ballot.
So, what's 'The Plan' for 2017-2022?
A range of building needs will be addressed in the 2017–2022 capital program. The plan includes the projects for which we anticipate receiving sufficient funds over the five-year period. The funding will come from a combination of E-SPLOST revenue, state capital outlay dollars, and interest earnings on E-SPLOST bond proceeds. To jumpstart the program, the E-SPLOST vote includes authorization to sell G.O. bonds to be repaid with sales tax proceeds. Should funding be insufficient, the list of projects is subject to revision.
Planned projects include the following:
- Construct four new schools (two theme-based high schools to relieve Norcross and Meadowcreek high schools, an elementary school in the Meadowcreek Cluster, and an elementary school in the Berkmar Cluster);
- Renovate and add classrooms to nine existing schools-- Benefield ES, Berkeley Lake ES, Chesney ES, Lilburn MS, Richards MS, Berkmar HS, Brookwood HS, Grayson HS, and Parkview HS;
- Provide technology improvements in every cluster to support teaching and learning;
- Catch up on preventive maintenance of existing facilities; and
- Purchase school buses and land, and pay off existing debt associated with previous building programs.
Thanks to the original E-SPLOST and the three earlier renewals, GCPS has been able to manage the challenges of dramatic growth in student enrollment, rather than being managed by it. The school district’s student enrollment continues to grow this school year, with more than 176,000 students in Gwinnett classrooms, an increase of 3,000 students compared to the 2014-15 school year. Online, find details in the SPLOST IV Accountability Report, issued in July of 2015.
Facts about the E-SPLOST
- Under the newly approved E-SPLOST, the penny tax would be collected for a five-year period, from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2022.
- Anticipated revenue of $950 million is expected. (By law, Buford City Schools will get $22.3million based on their student enrollment, leaving GCPS with $927.6 million.)
- Projects include four new schools and nine additions and renovations.
- Technology upgrades are planned systemwide, including a refresh of technology at all middle and high schools.
- Equipment and facilities modifications will be made for the high school academies.
- Furniture, fixtures, and equipment will address needs due to growth and replacement.
- Fine arts needs for both growth and replacement will be addressed.
Facility improvements will address preventive maintenance that has been postponed due to budget cuts (roofing, painting, carpeting, etc.).