Photo: Frank Reddy From left, school board members Mary Kay Murphy and Louise Radloff watch the results come in with school board member Daniel Seckinger and wife, Karen.
SUWANEE -- Gwinnett County voters said "yes" Tuesday to an extension of the education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
School system officials reacted Tuesday with excitement. Many gathered at the district's Instructional Support Center Tuesday night to watch the results come in.
In total, 30,955 voted for the penny tax extension (60.42 pecent), while 20,277 opposed it, with a voter turnout of about 14 percent of Gwinnett County's 373,431 registered voters.
"The real winners are the voters and the students," said Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks. "Our citizens are amazing, and we've had a strong show of support from the community."
Education SPLOST IV is a measure that will allow the system to collect a projected $876 million from retail sales to improve technology, build schools and make renovations during a five-year period.
For the past 15 years, Gwinnett County Public Schools has used the education SPLOST to construct 46 schools, helping the district keep up with enrollment growth. Funds have also been used to make additions and renovations to schools as well as update technology.
SPLOST supporter Sean Murphy said that technology upgrades are the real selling point for the new sales tax iteration.
"The people have spoken tonight," Murphy said. "Kids count in Gwinnett County, and new technology is on its way. It's so gratifying to see that everybody's gotten behind this effort in such a tremendous way."
The current one-cent sales tax for education expires on June 30, 2012. The Education SPLOST IV will collect from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2017. Of the projected $876 million, about $17.1 million is earmarked for Buford City Schools through an intergovernmental agreement approved earlier this year.
Buford has plans for upgrades to its existing schools as well as plans for a multipurpose facility.
During the past three iterations of SPLOST, voters have approved the tax by 60 and 70 percent, allowing public schools to collect hundreds of millions toward construction, transportation and technology.
A bulk of the funding for eCLASS (Content, Learning, Assessment and Support System) will come from new SPLOST dollars.
Using the digital content system, students can access digital content with a tablet-type device or computer.
Said Wilbanks: "The eCLASS initiative is going to allow us to change in a positive way how students use technology in the classroom."
Unlike previous extensions of the tax, technology upgrades for SPLOST IV will make up 50 percent of the total anticipated tax revenue.
Other major expenses include the installation of air conditioning systems in all Gwinnett County Public School facility gyms and kitchens.
SPLOST IV opponent Annette Rogers said she hopes that the school board will take note that "this is a high percentage of "no" votes."
Rogers said her opposition to SPLOST came about because she "didn't agree with all of the priorities of this initiative."
In addition to the technology and facility upgrades, the district also has plans to build five new schools, add on to eight existing schools and renovate a middle school in Duluth. A total of 433 new classrooms would be built for a student population that is 162,000 and growing.