Monday, September 29, 2008

Facts About Fayette’s ESPLOST Referendum

Excellence. It’s part of the heritage of Fayette County Public Schools.

Fayette’s students are among the highest performing in Georgia and the nation. They continually surpass national averages on the SAT and ACT and their CRCT average scores are among the top in the state. And, in case you haven’t heard, the school system is the only one of its size in Georgia that has made Adequate Yearly Progress every year since the No Child Left Behind Act was implemented.

Providing a quality education for students has always been a priority for Fayette County Public Schools. But with state funding cuts over the last seven years and a slowing tax digest growth, the school system’s needs are greater than available revenues. That’s why the Fayette County Board of Education approved holding an ESPLOST referendum during the general election on November 4.

ESPLOST stands for Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. It adds a penny to the sales tax for any taxable purchases made in the county. For every $100 that is spent, one dollar will go toward ESPLOST.

The one-cent sales tax spreads the responsibility of providing quality facilities and equipment for Fayette’s students to all citizens and visitors of the community, not just homeowners. Anyone who spends money in Fayette County will fund the ESPLOST whether they live here or not. Most counties in Georgia have an ESPLOST, including those near and surrounding Fayette. In fact, Fayette is one of only four in the state without an ESPLOST. The other three are Burke, Glynn and Wayne.

Georgia law states that only certain types of projects can be funded with ESPLOST monies, one being debt service payments; these payments must otherwise be made from property taxes. Fayette’s proposed projects include debt service payments as well as technology upgrades, security upgrades, textbook adoption, facilities renovations, school bus purchases and relocation of our warehouse.

An ESPLOST can last no longer than five years. It is estimated that the one-cent sales tax could generate up to $115 million over the five-year period. If approved by Fayette’s citizens, the ESPLOST will take effect April 1, 2009 with the school system receiving its first payout in June 2009.

The social and economic strengths of a community are greatly influenced by the quality of the school system. Good schools mean well-prepared citizens, a strong labor market and an inviting atmosphere for living and working. One key question asked by business/corporate prospects is “What is the quality of the local schools?”

There are many important decisions that will be made during this year’s general election, including the next leader of our great country. Don’t forget to vote on November 4.

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