Paulding school board is considering asking voters in November to renew its dedicated 1% sales tax to fund a plan that includes “immediately” beginning construction on a new middle school in the county’s rapidly growing northeast area.
The new middle school will be a relocation of McClure Middle School and allow North Paulding High School to expand into the current McClure building near it off Harmony Grove Church Road in northern Paulding, Superintendent Brian Otott said.
The new school is included in a draft facilities improvement plan using funding from the 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for education.
However, county residents must vote to renew the sales tax in November or the funding will not be available, Otott told the Paulding County School Board Tuesday, June 25.
The facilities plan, which school district officials made public June 25, calls for SPLOST funds to be combined with state funding and school district reserve funds to total $131 million.
The top priority for the funding would be retiring bond debt the school district used last decade to fund capital improvements at schools during an era of rapid population growth in Paulding, Otott said.
More than 30% of projected SPLOST proceeds, or about $43 million, would be used to repay the bonds, officials said.
Otott and other officials have noted the school district uses SPLOST proceeds to repay its bond debt rather than property taxes as other school districts do.
The remaining money then would be used to fund capital projects and other initiatives prioritized by need.
Otott said public input during five public Community Conversation meetings on enrollment growth and facility needs earlier this year prompted him to propose the plan.
A group of construction projects were given highest priority, including the new northeast Paulding middle school for $32.5 million.
Other projects given highest priority for funding in the plan included:
♦ $12.3 million for classroom additions to Moses Middle School and Roberts and Russom elementary schools to help relieve projected overcrowding at schools surrounding them.
♦ About $16 million for renovations at district schools.
♦ $6 million for safety and security upgrades districtwide.
♦ Priority 2 projects would include safety and security upgrades totaling $6 million; technology enhancements of $2.5 million; fine arts initiatives costing $1.56 million; physical education improvements of $1.42 million; and athletic facility upgrades totaling $1.9 million.
♦ Lowest priority projects, called Priority 3, include future facility needs and improvements totaling $13.8 million.
Otott said district officials found that a new high school would have cost up to $65 million, which prompted them to consider “other options” to handle the expected growth in enrollment at McClure and North Paulding, he said.
He said at a series of January open meetings called Community Conversations, “We asked our school community to help identify the best approaches to address capacity needs in the most critical areas of our county.”
“We believe this plan does exactly that by constructing what will become a new McClure Middle School. The current facility, meanwhile, will become an annex building for North Paulding High School.
“By building one middle school, we will provide critical capacity relief at two schools,” he said.
A recent enrollment study showed enrollments at North Paulding and McClure to continue growing well beyond capacity over the next few years.
If the referendum is approved by voters in November, the school district could use advance short-term financing to begin construction of the new middle school “as soon as possible,” officials said.
The goal would be to open the new school in either the 2022-2023 school year or the 2023-2024 school year, a news release stated.
SPLOST RENEWALSPLOST is a five-year, 1% sales tax which allows the recipient to use tax proceeds to pay for capital projects and debt service rather than using long-term debt such as bonds.
The school system’s current SPLOST V expires on March 31, 2021. Renewal of the SPLOST for education would continue sales tax collections beginning April 1, 2021.
The 1% tax would run through 2026 and is projected to raise $113 million over its five-year life, district officials said.
If voters approve a renewal Nov. 5 the school district could “get a head start on much-needed projects,” Otott said.
The facilities plan calls for using all of the SPLOST funding and adding almost $10 million in future state funding and Paulding school district reserve funds totaling $8.2 million to provide a total of $131.4 million.
The state funds will come from reimbursements to Paulding schools for renovation projects as part of the Department of Education’s Capital Outlay program.
The county district’s reserve funds would be used to pay for two of three classroom additions in the plan. They are not from SPLOST proceeds, officials said.
The next step in the process will be the school board finalizing wording in the resolution to be presented on the Nov. 5 ballot.