CONYERS — Rockdale County voters will be asked to go the polls in November to cast a ballot in favor of or against a 1-percent sales tax to be used for the local school system.
Speaking to a group of business leaders who gathered at the Rockdale Career Academy on Tuesday to learn more about volunteer opportunities in the school system, former Rockdale County School Board member Darlene Hotchkiss presented the list of projects that, if approved, the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or E-SPLOST, would fund.
The 1-percent sales tax can be used for capital expenditures and to retire debt.
Hotchkiss, who served on the Rockdale County Board of Education for 16 years before deciding not to seek re-election last year, said she had been very proud of the work the BOE did in controlling costs with the previous three E-SPLOSTS.
Hotchkiss pointed out that the first E-SPLOST resulted in Rockdale County Public Schools being debt-free, and it remains so today.
“One of my proudest accomplishments as a board member was to see that all the projects on the first three SPLOSTs were completed,” she said. “The school system does a great job watching how the funds are spent. Even with the last SPLOST where not all funds were collected as anticipated, all the projects will still be completed. It shows you that what they put out to be accomplished truly will be accomplished.”
The previous E-SPLOST expired at the end of March, reducing sales tax in Rockdale County from 7 percent to 6 percent. The sales tax brought in a total of $71.1 million for the school system over the previous five years. It was projected that the sales tax would generate $94.8 million during that time period.
“You may have noticed your sales tax drop,” Hotchkiss said. “That was ours (the school system’s) and we need that 1 penny sales tax back.”
If approved by voters on Nov. 5, E-SPLOST IV is projected to bring $83.6 million over a five-year period beginning in April 2014.
Hotchkiss presented a list of the proposed projects to be funded by E-SPLOST IV:
• Safety and Security
This includes establishing access control to several of the schools in the county, implementing a student ID system, installing fencing and site property access controls and purchasing emergency lockdown control hardware.
The E-SPLOST would provide funds to purchase individual student devices, interactive Classrooms of the Future, and improve, upgrade and replace computers and laptops. Hotchkiss said that RCPS has not had the funds to upgrade computers for the past six years, leaving the system woefully behind.
The E-SPLOST would fund the acquisition of 120 acres of land for future schools and the construction of new Pine Street and J.H. House elementary schools. It would provide for additions and renovations to several other schools in the county. Hotchkiss said with a new Pine Street Elementary School, the old school would be renovated for the RCPS Central Office.
She said the school system plans to “get out of the rental business” and consolidate offices that are currently located on West Avenue to one centralized location with the rest of the Central Office.
The E-SPLOST would also be used to upgrade buses and fleet vehicles and outfit all buses with cameras and GPS equipment.
Other proposed capital expenditures include:
• Renovations and upgrades to middle and high school theaters;
• Band uniforms and band instruments;
• Improvements and resurfacing tracks at the high schools;
• Bleacher improvements at Rockdale County High School; and
• Installation of artificial turf at all high school football fields.