What do you think about ESPLOST?

I agree with Dr. Barry Marchman in his assessment of ESPLOST.

The school board has two lines on your property tax. The first tax is 20 mils for O&M. the second tax is a school bond tax. It was 1.65 mils this year. That tax is used to pay off the school bonds. The ESPLOST has no relation to the 20 mil tax, but the 1.65 school bond tax WILL be impacted by the ESPLOST. Here is how it works:

Every July, the school board will estimate the amount of debt service that is anticipated in the coming year. For example there may be $12 million dollars of bond payments due next fiscal year. The board will then calculate a "school bond millage rate" that will raise the $12 million. This is not an exact calculation though, because the tax digest has some variation.

The county commissioners will then approve the new "school bond millage rate."

Over the past few years, a portion of the ESPLOST money has been used to service the school bond debts. For example, if the debt service is $12 million and the board uses $5 million of ESPLOST money to service the debt, then it only has to raise $7 million from property taxes. Because of ESPLOST, the school bond millage rate, and thus our property tax, has been lower that it would have been without ESPLOST.

Here are the actual numbers from comptroller Laura Brock:

Fiscal Without With  
2010 4.09 3.42 0.67
2011 2.85 1.65 1.20
2012 2.69 1.65 1.04
2013 2.88 1.45 1.43

Your millage rate would have been 1.43 higher this year if there had been no ESPLOST. You would have paid $143 more on a $250,000 house. Here is a sample calculation:

The payments vary over the years (they will triple from 2017 - 2021) and so the school bond millage may vary. See page 60 of the FCBOE CAFR:

BOTTOM LINE: Our property tax will increase if ESPLOST fails. The school board will request a school bond millage rate sufficient to cover the bond payments. Without ESPLOST funds, that millage rate will be higher in the future.

ANOTHER REASON to like the ESPLOST: People cross county lines to shop at WalMart and at the Pavilion. These shoppers are helping to fund our schools. We return the favor when we cross over into their county. All but a few counties in Georgia have the ESPLOST.

NO ESPLOST PROBABLY MEANS FEWER TEACHERS: If ESPLOST fails, then about $10 million of expenses currently covered by ESPLOST will have to come back to the operating budget. About 90% of the current budget is people. If textbooks, building maintenance, etc. comes back to operating budget, then more hard choices will have to be made.

PEEVE: It is not a "penny tax." It is a 1% sales tax. It is a $200 tax if you spend $20,000 per year.

MISINFORMATION: There is no state law that requires property tax to be lowered when ESPLOST is passed, but it is true that millage rates must be lowered if there is ESPLOST money left over after all debts are paid and all approved projects are completed.

ASTRO TURF: There is no astro turf in the approved list of projects. ESPLOST must be spent on specific items. Here is a list (but it does not seem to be complete):

CONCLUSION: I am voting YES. I pay a little less property tax, we collect money from out of county shoppers, and we have some relief in the operating budget so that we can perhaps retain more of our excellent teachers and employees.

-Barry Marchman


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