Voters to decide on SPLOST

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Come November, education officials will ask voters for an extension of the one-cent sales tax in a measure the Gwinnett County Public Schools chief of staff said "is critical to the school system's continued ability to provide a quality educational program."

In a unanimous decision Thursday night, the board of education put the matter in the hands of the voters. An election scheduled for Nov. 8 will ask Gwinnett County residents whether they want a fourth iteration of the education special purpose local option sales tax, which could generate about $876 million to be split up among Gwinnett County Public Schools and Buford City Schools.

Of that, almost $859 million would go to Gwinnett, and Buford would get $17.1 million, according to Berney Kirkland, chief of staff with Gwinnett County Public Schools.

The two systems must be in agreement to call for a SPLOST renewal, according to Jorge Quintana, a spokesman for Gwinnett Schools.

Kirkland said that, if passed, SPLOST IV would continue a five-year building plan that Gwinnett County Schools officials "rolled out in 2006."

Kirkland said SPLOST IV would be a large funding component of that five-year plan.

Dollars generated through the penny tax could generate funds for more than 500 additional classrooms in the district as well as construction of five new schools.

System-wide facility and infrastructure improvements as well as technology improvements for students would be covered by the tax as well, Kirkland said.

Enrollment in the Gwinnett County Public School System is expected to reach 162,400 this fall.

As part of Thursday night's vote, the Gwinnett County Public Schools board of education approved a list of capital projects, which the proceeds of the special sales tax would be intended to fund.

Funding for new schools included an elementary school for the Meadowcreek Cluster, Berkmar/Central Cluster elementary school, Peachtree Ridge Cluster Middle School, Central Cluster Middle School No. 2 and Berkmar/Central Cluster High School.

A list of schools in need of renovations and "modernizing" was included as well: Alcova Elementary, Rockbridge Elementary, Duluth Cluster Middle, North Gwinnett High, Twin Rivers Middle, North Gwinnett Middle, Camp Creek Elementary, Peachtree Ridge, Meadowcreek High and air conditioning for all high school and middle school gyms.

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said that his hope is that, if SPLOST IV passes, all projects on the list will be completed.

"One of the best predictors of future behavior is past behavior," Wilbanks said. "We have for as long as I've been around always done pretty well with our list, always gotten everything."

As part of the vote to hold the SPLOST IV referendum, the board approved an intergovernmental agreement with Buford City Schools for the election.

Buford City Schools planned to meet regarding the agreement in a called meeting this morning.