The focus for the February meeting of the Hart County Property Owners Association was ESPLOST 6.
ESPLOST 6 was the focus of the February meeting of the Hart County Property Owners Association. Our goal was to offer speakers for both sides of this tax issue.
Brooks Mewborn, associate superintendent of Hart County schools, is always a well-prepared energetic speaker. Tom Hardigree, the well-known talk show host, was our second speaker.
Mr. Mewborn offered a brief video documenting the accomplishments of the ongoing ESPLOST 5. Evidently, its last project is being bid for a multi-purpose sports facility at the middle school at $1.1 m. Additionally, he reviewed the process he and Superintendent Carter employed to develop the
revenue projections for ESPLOST 6. From that, they developed the list of projects to be funded.
ESPLOST 6 will include a bus maintenance facility on the recently purchased land on Bowman Highway,
a new administration and professional development center, a new field house, and additional parking at the high school. New construction totals about 16.9 million, and renovations/upgrades to several schools about $9.3 million. Safety and security projects will be around $1.5 m. Perhaps the night's biggest surprise came when Mr. Mew- born announced that the current administration building would be renovated to become a daycare facility, catering primarily to teachers and staff. Personnel numbers and costs are unknown.
HCPOA has asked Mr. Mewborn for a complete list of all projects and costs, which we will
post on the website and publicize. Mr. Hardigree’s first comment was Vote No. He noted that he does
not oppose the idea of another esplost but believes that there is solid basis for at least a short delay.
The current esplost had a goal of $18m, which will probably be met in the next six months. With over a year remaining, why not delay the new tax until January 2025? Perhaps then the BOE could publically offer the needs and priorities for the projects.
What would be the effect on the HC system if the tax was delayed 15 months? Essentially nothing. The Charter System would still have its normal budget of well over $30 million. In fact, in fall of 2022, they picked up an additional and unbudgeted $750,000 because of the expanding tax digest.
Where did the funds go? The old scare that property taxes would rise is really a red herring. Both school revenues and splost have risen over the years. Without splost it would be necessary for BOE members to justify projects on an individual basis and prioritize each.
Taxpayers would thus be able to examine in detail where their money was going. Lastly, Mr. Hardigree
raised the question of the impact of leaving the monthly collections, currently about $500,000 in the community until January 2025. Essentially that would be an injection of some $7 million into the local economy for all sorts of businesses and retail establishments. Would there be a significant and positive benefit for HC to have that economic boost even for a short 15 months? It is fair to say that
there is more to the ESPLOST 6 vote than just pouring money into school construction projects. Perhaps these projects should be considered individually and evaluated for their contribution to academic improvement.