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Gainesville City Schools using sales tax revenue for construction needs

POSTED: January 16, 2014 12:35 a.m.

For the first time in her career with Gainesville City Schools, Superintendent Merrianne Dyer feels comfortable about how the buildings are operating.

“I’ve been here a long time,” she said. “It’s the first time I remember that ... there’s a very short list with what we need to do with our facilities. I’m very proud of that.”

Funding for building repairs comes in part from the education special purpose local option sales tax, a 1 percent tax with proceeds used to fund capital outlay projects like buildings, equipment and land for local school systems.

For Gainesville’s E-SPLOST IV projects, general obligation bonds are issued to fund construction. The tax receipts are then used to pay the principal and interest on the bonds.

Gainesville City Schools began drawing from E-SPLOST IV funds in November 2012 after a March 2011 vote, when 67 percent of Hall County voters approved the extra funds. Collections will go through 2017.

“On the ballot we put a lot of things,” Dyer said. “Textbooks, technology, we just threw it in there.”

From November 2012 through December 2013, the school system has received a little more than $6 million in E-SPLOST proceeds.

Multiple construction projects have since taken place.

“(In) the original budget we had some roofing that needed to be done at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, Wood’s Mill Academy and Centennial Arts Academy,” Chief Financial Officer Janet Allison said. “All of that’s completed.”

The roofing work at all three schools was completed for $1.4 million.

Repairs to the foundation at Wood’s Mill were made for nearly $10,000; Enota also had the emergency systems, digital clocks and fire alarms replaced for $4,000.

Also included in E-SPLOST IV was the construction of the new Fair Street School, which opened its doors in October for $16.2 million, out of what was expected to be $18 million. Allison cautioned that final bills have not been received by the system, so the final cost has not been truly tallied.

“We’ve budgeted so conservatively for Fair Street and the other projects, on the assumption that we would not pick up (revenue),” Dyer said.

As of Dec. 31, the total cash balance on the Fair Street project was $1.6 million. Once the final bills for Fair Street are received, Allison said she plans to present updated numbers to school board members in February. From there, they can set priorities on what other projects they’d like to tackle.

“We’ll know the total cost (of Fair Street) versus the budget, leaving what residuals we have to spend on other projects outlined in the referendum language,” Allison explained.

Some choices include technology upgrades and renovations to portions of Gainesville High School.

“The oldest facility right now that needs work is the Gainesville High cafeteria,” Dyer said. “There needs to be some work done on the (Pam Ware Performing Arts Center). Those two things are on the list of (what to) contemplate.”

Citizens will vote on the E-SPLOST V in 2016. Gainesville plans to use that funding for a school in the Mundy Mill area.

Dyer has previously said the plan is to have the land “shovel ready” by March 2016, with an opening date of August 2017.

If E-SPLOST V is denied by the voters, the system will have to find some other way to pay.

“If you have facility needs, they have to be met per state guidelines,” Dyer said. “There’s no other alternative but to raise the millage rate ... or go out and seek a bond referendum.”


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