By REBECCA HAZEN
Dade County citizens will vote on the continuation of education Special Local Options Sales Tax (E-SPLOST), with the option of issuing bonds, in March.
SPLOST is a one–cent sales tax revenue source in which the students of Dade County schools have been the beneficiary of, thanks to the voters of Dade County.
“This special purpose one cent sales tax has enabled our local Board of Education to make significant capital improvements to existing facilities,” Interim Superintendent Josh Ingle said.
The referendum, to be voted on in March, will be a continuation of SPLOST.
Each SPLOST lasts for five years. Currently SPLOST V is in place, so the referendum for SPLOST VI would ask the voters to continue what is currently in place. The referendum resolution will contain language in it that would give the Dade County Board of Education the authority to issue bonds of up to $10 million, if they choose to do so. It is optional.
“SPLOST V, which we are in right now, it is pay as you go. With the option of being able to issue bonds, it would allow availability of funds quicker, and then that would be paid back over the life of the SPLOST tax,” Ingle explained.
The board’s attorney is in the process of sending the ballot to the Board of Elections. The information for the voters will be stated in the referendum.
Some of the things that the school district has used SPLOST funds for include purchasing school buses to maintain the current fleet, items to support technology infrastructure, like software and devices, and many other items that are not necessarily funded by the Georgia Department of Education or any other state agencies.
These dollars also assist with maintenance and repairs of equipment that is used daily to help support the operations of the school district.
“It has also allowed the Board of Education to be wise stewards of other financial resources by maintaining a relatively consistent millage rate, which is has been below some of the nearby counties’ millage rates,” Ingle said.
SPLOST funding has also allowed the school district to purchase equipment and technology to support academic programs and classroom instruction, such as Practical Assessment Exploration System (PAES) labs. This has provided some of the students that are participating in special programs the opportunities to learn life skills that they can take into the work force.
Other purchases include text books, broadcast video equipment and software to support virtual options. Band instruments, choral equipment and other equipment to support the arts have also been purchased.
“Some of the most recent expenditures of our SPLOST funds has been LED lighting upgrades at Dade Elementary, modifications and renovations at Dade Middle, which includes a new roof and HVAC system. Each one of the classrooms has Bard HVAC units, which are individual classroom units that hang on the wall. We just recently completed replacing all of those units,” Ingle said.
Ingle continued, “We have also purchased items to support our career tech learning labs so that they meet industry standards. This includes welding equipment, construction equipment, items for our engineering labs, computers for the business labs and medical type supplies to support health occupations.”
Ingle noted that he has been an educator in Dade County for 15 years, and the continuation of the sales and use tax has always been appreciative.
“We will continue to be fiscally responsible and take care of what has been entrusted to us. We value fiscal accountability. At the same time, SPLOST does provide educational opportunities for our students, which will impact them for many years to come. The administrators and the Board of Education, they have always done a great job of keeping a close eye on expenditures, particularly related to SPLOST. The students are the ones that should receive the benefit of this one cent sales tax,” Ingle said.