The Liberty County School System has no debt.
"Everything we have bought, everything we have done, we have either paid for it outright or save until we could pay for it," Board of Education member Carol Guyett said at the first Educational Special Local Options Sales Tax community information meeting at Taylors Creek Elementary School on Monday.
District Chief Financial Officer Roger Reese agreed with Guyett. In an interview with the Courier after the meeting, Reese said not only has the school district not incurred any debt because of ESPLOST but it has no debt of any kind, including capital projects.
Guyett said ESPLOST has made many projects in the district possible and that if voters approve a referendum,
to renew the tax, it will help the school system continue to make improvements.
The meeting was led by Guyett and BoE Chairwoman Lily Baker. This was the first of a series of meetings led by board members to inform parents and residents about ESPLOST and answer questions.
ESPLOST is a 1 percent sales tax to help fund school projects, including facility improvements, technology, buses, instructional materials and safety and security enhancements. It does not fund salaries. The referendum is on continuing the existing 1 percent sales tax in Liberty County. It will be on the May 24 general primary ballot. According to the ESPLOST referendum, the district anticipates generating $44 million in revenue over five years.
In attendance at the meeting were parents, district staff and Taylors Creek Elementary Principal Dr. Brittney Mobley.
Guyett went through a slideshow presentation that highlighted projects funded by ESPLOST and explained their different uses in the school district. ESPLOST funded projects included: the Liberty College and Career Academy, the iPad initiative, bathroom renovations, 3-D labs, playground upgrades and security improvements at different schools.
Parent Graylan Quarterman asked about an itemized list of potential ESPLOST projects. Guyett said that the items listed on the referendum are broad. She gave the example that "transportation" is listed on the referendum which can include fuel or buying new buses.
In an email, Pattie Crane, the district’s chief information officer, said that the referendum is specific in how ESPLOST funds can be used. The referendum does not list detailed projects.
During the meeting, Guyett said with more than 130 buses on the road every day, the costs of maintenance and increasing gas prices can be millions a year, and ESPLOST can fund transportation costs that the Georgia Department of Education will not cover. Baker said with ESPLOST, residents and visitors to the county share the costs.
"ESPLOST allows Liberty County schools to shine," Guyett said. "Without ESPLOST, we would really have to tighten up the belt and a lot of things that the students take for granted, that the teachers take for granted, that we take for granted in our schools, will certainly suffer. It’s not just about building, it’s improving what we have … and ensure that our kids are getting the experience they need in the classrooms."
The referendum and ESPLOST information can be found on the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and Conventions and Visitors Bureau website, www.libertycounty.org. ESPLOST information can also be found at the LCSS website, www.libertyschools.org.