|In 1996, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation that was one of the most beneficial bills for public education ever to come out of the Gold Dome. Lawmakers approved calling for an amendment to the state’s Constitution that would allow school districts to seek approval to fund capital projects with sales taxes. The amendment passed statewide in November of 1996, and in March of 1997, Gwinnett County Public Schools took the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, to its citizens. It was approved by almost 72 percent!
Since 1997, the Gwinnett education SPLOST has provided our students with thousands of classrooms and major technology improvements. Gwinnett voters extended the one-penny SPLOST in 2001 and 2006 by wide margins. Thanks to their approval, we were able to manage the challenges of our dramatic growth in student enrollment, rather than being managed by it. It is hard to imagine how we would have housed the students continually coming to our door without the new schools funded by the penny SPLOST.
Now it is 2011 and the SPLOST is about to expire. Recently, the Gwinnett County Board of Education approved asking voters to keep the one-cent SPLOST for another five years. There are a number of important reasons why the Board did so.
Gwinnett County Public Schools continues to grow by almost 2,000 students a year, and we still have areas where more schools and classrooms are sorely needed.
Additionally, as a result of nearly a decade of budget cuts, we have postponed preventive maintenance on our buildings. These projects—including painting, carpeting, and roofing projects—are essential to the upkeep of our facilities. We also want to air-condition all of our gyms, activity buildings, and kitchens—something many people have wanted us to do for a long time.
In addition to facility improvements, technology advancements are a substantial part of this SPLOST program. The focus is on increasing access to technology, expanding our resources for teaching and learning, and supporting day-to-day processes in areas such as transportation, business and finance, and human resources. SPLOST IV will enable the school district to provide students, teachers, and parents with technology resources to improve student learning and enhance communication at all levels.
I encourage you to learn more about the school district’s needs, our plans for addressing them, how the SPLOST will benefit all of our clusters and schools, and our record of accountability for delivering what was promised in SPLOST I, II, and III. Revenue from the one-cent sales tax has provided tremendous benefits to our community and its schools over the last 15 years. On November 8, Gwinnett County voters will have an opportunity to keep the school district moving forward. It will be an important day for our community.
J. Alvin Wilbanks
Gwinnett County Public Schools