Message from the CEO/Superintendent…
Extension of current sales tax for schools on November ballot:
J. Alvin Wilbanks
SPLOST… A proven record for funding school improvements
Gwinnett County Public Schools welcomed close to 152,000 children in our 106 schools this year. That’s about 7,300 more children than last year. Experts agree there will continue to be rapid growth in Gwinnett for the foreseeable future. So we must continue to build schools in the most efficient and cost-effective way if we want to maintain the quality educational program our parents and communities expect and deserve.
The Gwinnett County Board of Education and I believe the best way to fund classroom construction is through continued use of the special purpose local option sales tax for schools (SPLOST). Since it was first approved in 1997, the one-cent sales tax has done a tremendous amount of good for our students.
SPLOST has been an effective and efficient way to raise funds for construction and capital improvements for our schools. That is why the Board is asking voters to approve an extension of the SPLOST for schools on November 7, 2006, as they did overwhelmingly in November 2001, when 79% of them voted “Yes.”
This August, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) opened more than 250 new classrooms, including those at the new Trickum Middle replacement facility, pictured above. These classrooms are part of the 2002–07 building program which has provided more than 1,600 classrooms to date. This includes additions at existing schools and 19 new schools (two high schools, four middle schools, two middle school replacement facilities, and 11 elementary schools).
Since 1997, when voters approved the first Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, GCPS has diligently addressed classroom and instructional technology needs. In fact, the SPLOST I and SPLOST II building programs have marked an unprecedented period in the history of school construction in Gwinnett County. Take a look at what else SPLOST I (approved in 1997) and SPLOST II (approved in 2001) have provided:
• More than 3,000 classrooms for Gwinnett’s growing student enrollment
• Classrooms for more than 70,000 students
• 30 new schools by the time the current building program ends in 2007
• Systemwide technology for teaching and learning.
Through the SPLOST extension, we intend to construct almost 2,000 needed classrooms in 27 new schools and nine school additions. We also will continue to make technology advancements to support instruction, buy land for future schools, and make much-needed improvements at existing schools throughout the county.
Gwinnett County Public Schools’ record for use of the sales tax is a stellar one. We have exceeded the number of schools we promised to build, constructing them on time and within budget; and we made great strides in providing and upgrading the technology our schools and teachers need for classroom instruction. SPLOST also has made providing classrooms less of a burden for Gwinnett County property owners, as a large portion of the tax is paid by those living outside of the county who buy taxable goods here.
Extending the penny sales tax for another five years is important for Gwinnett’s students. Keeping up with our rapid growth, while maintaining quality schools and teachers, is an enormous task. In fact, while the extension of SPLOST is a major part of the solution in raising the necessary funds for our schools, we will have to find other funding sources to complete our building program and keep our plan on track.
The Board and I urge parents and the public to become well informed about the SPLOST plan over the coming weeks. At the same time, we pledge to continue providing quality education for all of our students, attracting and keeping the best teachers, and ensuring that our students learn in safe, comfortable, disciplined classrooms. The sales tax for schools will go a long way in that regard.
J. Alvin Wilbanks
Gwinnett County Public Schools
Click here to learn more about The Plan for bringing GCPS’ building needs in check by 2014.