WHAT IS ESPLOST?
The Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax provides the framework for facilities growth aligned with the District's Strategic Plan. ESPLOST is a one-penny sales tax that funds buildings, technology, and other needs outside of the general fund. The one-cent sales tax provides a method of funding that everyone pays, not just property owners, as sales tax is paid by everyone who shops or stays in Chatham County. A majority of these funds are generated by people who live outside Chatham County. It is estimated that 40% of the funds collected come from visitors who do not live in Chatham County. They may be visiting for a day or they could work in Chatham County but live in a neighboring county.
An E-IV referendum will be included on the November 2, 2021, ballot. This is not a new sales tax, rather a continuation of the existing penny sales tax. Using data to guide our decision-making process helps us to continually improve the educational landscape in Chatham County.
Some of the E-IV Project Highlights include:
- New/Replacement School: Windsor Forest High School
- Additions and Modifications: Pooler Elementary, Bloomingdale Elementary, Godley Station K-8, E-Learning Centers, Jacob G. Smith
- New Construction/Upgrades: Bartlett STEM K-8, Windsor Forest Elementary School, Maintenance/Transportation Facility, Campus Police Facilities, Physical Education/Athletic Facilities, Fire Alarms, Alarm Upgrades, HVAC and more!
See the full E-IV Project List online as resolved by the Board of Education on January 13, 2021.
Over the span of the ESPLOST construction program, the district has replaced 22 schools, provided technology improvements for teaching and learning, and added safety and security enhancements at nearly every school in the district. SCCPSS has administrative oversite over 50 schools, plus a number of other sites and administrative buildings. Every facility requires upkeep and some buildings are much older than others.
A thoughtful effort has resulted in the identification of District needs through a data driven approach. SCCPSS utilizes a facility condition assessment to analyze the physical condition of each building. This process also served as a guide to determine the cost to replace, improve, or repair. Using current classroom space, populations trends, historical and current enrollment and housing trends, the data helps determine how ESPLOST funds are allocated, where new schools need to be built, and necessary facility additions or improvements. School buildings have a life span and often require modifications for better utilization, just as your home does.
ESPLOST is an established sales tax. The continuation is not a new tax - it is a continuation of an existing, voter-approved one-penny sales tax. As more and more families choose public education for their children, capital improvement continues to be a critical priority to ensure quality learning spaces that are equipped for the 21st century student are provided. Safety enhancements and technology costs have been address by using this valued resource. Now serving more than 36,000 students, Savannah-Chatham Public Schools remains the 10th largest school system in Georgia. To account for student needs, funding resources are crucial. With the support of ESPLOST dollars, facility improvements have contributed to the expansion of the school district and the many success stories we have enjoyed, such as a graduation rate that has topped the state average for six consecutive years.
The ESPLOST helps to reduce property taxes by using a sales tax as a funding mechanism, rather than issuing a bond for construction programs that property owners may be required to pay through a property tax. ESPLOST provides a method for funding the cost of educational improvements that everyone pays. This is important because sales tax is paid by everyone who shops or stays in Chatham County!
Local Economic Impact: ESPLOST construction projects are completed with an effort to use local contractors and minority and women owned businesses. Under the last two ESPLOST continuations (EII, EIII) $60 million dollars in contracts with Local and/or Minority/Women Business Enterprise has been awarded. Additionally, under the ESPLOST III continuation, more than $120 million local contracts have been awarded. Providing jobs is just one more reason ESPLOST is good for business in Chatham County.
STEWARDSHIP OF RESOURCES:
Without an ESPLOST the system would be forced to issue school bonds for its capital needs. By law, school bonds are paid exclusively from property taxes. In short property owners have to step in to pay the bonds. More than $138 million dollars of bond debt has been paid off using ESPLOST funds! This action has improved the District's financial position by eliminating previously incurred debt.
SCCPSS provides regular updates as part of its accountability system on the use of ESPLOST dollars and construction progress. These updates are provided quarterly during scheduled Board of Public Education meetings that everyone can see. Additional information is offered through a Board Committee called the Capital Improvement Committee. This Board Committee is specifically focused on capital projects and the ESPLOST Construction program. A review of the October 2021 CIC meeting can be found here: OCTOBER 13, 2021, CIC MEETING
The District also ensures proper oversight and use of funds through an annual external ESPLOST Audit. Over the last two years an examination of ESPLOST project expenditures, and compliance with specified requirements associated with these fund, has resulted in zero audit findings. This result is indicative of the District's commitment to the proper stewardship of the penny resource and fiscal responsibility.
The First ESPLOST: ESPLOST I went into effect on January 1, 2007, and brought about upgrades, new schools, and improvements to school technology. The funds were used in two ways; the first included $67 million dollars to retire existing bond debt over the five year period. The remaining funds were used to build new schools, and provide facility and technology upgrades.
ESPLOST II: On November, 8th, 2011, the citizens of Savannah-Chatham County overwhelmingly approved the continuation of this one percent sales tax. The ESPLOST II extension for a $330 million limit or 5 years (whichever came first) was used to improve facilities and equipment, as well as provide technology resource upgrades for students, school renovations, and security enhancements. Additionally, the extension retired $47 million of previously incurred bond debt.
ESPLOST III: With the passage of the ESPLOST III continuation in Chatham County on November 8, 2016, the existing bond debt has been retired, resulting in the eventual elimination of $139,706,985 dollars of bond debt that would have been the burden of tax payers. Facility improvements such as the new auditorium at Beach High School, the new district athletic facility at Islands High School and the new gymnasium and auditorium at Woodville-Tompkins are welcome additions to district facilities. New schools such as the White Bluff Elementary School and Jenkins High School have been completed. The New Hampstead K-8 school is expected to be completed by January, 2022, and the new K-12 multi-campus at the old Groves site is expected to open in August 2023.
The new K12 Multi-campus
Woodville Tompkins Gym and Auditorium
District Athletic Facility at Islands High School
White Bluff Elementary School
Herschel V. Jenkins High School
Capital Improvements Committee Presentation - October 13, 2021
ESPLOST In The NewsESPLOST IV will be on the ballot for everyone in Chatham County on Nov. 2. But what is ESPLOST?