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March 22, 2021

New School Questions and Answers

1. What is an EDUCATION SPLOST (ESPLOST)?

An Education Special Purpose Location Option Sales Tax allows local districts to ask voters for the ability to levy and collect a one percent sales tax to help fund school facility and equipment improvements. It cannot be used to pay operating expenses, such a salaries. ESPLOSTs are enacted by referendum. 

2. When is the ESPLOST vote?

The ESPLOST vote will take place in November 2021. More information will be provided at a later date. 

3. Would the proposed ESPLOST be a tax increase? 

No. If approved, the sales tax would remain at its current level. A "yes" vote would simply extend the current 1% sales tax for education an additional five years. This is not a new tax. 

4. Why do we need to extend our current ESPLOST and build a new K-12 facility? 

A comprehensive facility study was recently conducted of our current schools. It has been determined that the cost of upgrading SCES and SCM/HS is greater than the state funding to construct a new K-12 facility. To maximize our money from the state and to insure all of our children are in modern, safe, and secure facilities, we are planning for new PreK-12 facility. 

5. Are any state funds available for construction of a new school? 

The Seminole County School System qualifies for Low Wealth Project Specific Funding which is designed to assist systems that rank in the bottom 25% in SPLOST earnings to build schools. Through this program, we are eligible for approximately $32 million for a K-12 facility. The total cost of the project is approximately $44 million. 

6. Will the school system need to renew the ESPLOST in future years? 

Yes. The school system will need to issue bonds for up to $12 million. Because that is more than this five year SPLOST cycle will collect, renewal ESPLOSTs will be necessary to retire the bonds. This is a common practice used in school systems to accomplish major projects. 

7. Why an ESPLOST?

The ESPLOST is not a property tax. It provides a method of funding the cost of educational improvements that everyone, not just property owners, contributes to. Additionally, the sales tax is paid by everyone who shops in Seminole County. 

8. Why isn't the money being used for teacher salaries? 

State laws prohibit using ESPLOST proceeds for salaries. 

9. What are some considerations in the design of the building? 

SAFETY & SEPARATION. Schools today are designed with student safety in mind. They are designed with fewer exterior entrances, better security features, improved sight lines for monitoring, etc. With the current health pandemic, they are also designed to provide better indoor air quality and reduce the number of allergens and pathogens in the buildings. 

As this will be a PreK-12 facility, the separation of students will be a top priority. We will have a design where the younger students are totally separated from the older students. We can also group and separate the students in traditional grade spans (PK-5), (6-8), and (9-12). 

10. Why should people who do not have children in school support the ESPLOST extension? 

The ESPLOST extension helps keep ad valorem taxes stable. Additionally, the children are not the only ones who benefit from good schools. The social and economic strength of a community are greatly influenced by the school system. Good schools mean well-prepared citizens, a strong labor market, and an inviting atmosphere for living and working. Having quality facilities sends the message that education is important to our community.

11. What would happen if the ESPLOST did not pass?

If the ESPLOST does not pass in November, we would not be able to construct a new school. We would need to have another election to renew the ESPLOST to continue to maintain our current buildings that are 70 (SCES) and 26 (SCM/HS) years old. If that ESPLOST did not pass, we would have to rely on property taxes to maintain our aging facilities. 

Some of this information was provided by Dr. Lori James, Superintendent for the Clinch County School System. 

Below is a link to the new school presentation by Leah Jones, architect with Altman & Barrett. This presentation was done on March 10-11, 2021 for the teachers and staff of Seminole County. 

New School Presentation by Altman & Barrett

March 17, 2021

In the decision to build Seminole County School System a new K-12, the school system will have a new campus for the lowest burden on the system themselves. The Georgia Department of Education will the see the entire school at the funding size of a high school. This will allow the school to obtain more funding then if it were separated out elementary and middle/high school. A comprehensive facility study was recently conducted of our schools. It has been determined that the cost of upgrading SCES and SCM/HS is greater than the state funding to construct a new K-12 facility. To maximize our money from the state and to insure all of our children are in modern, safe, and secure facilities, we are planning for a new PreK-12 facility. The new facility would allow the school system to start fresh and not have to allocate money each year to the high price repairs and failures that are occurring in their current building. This will allow the chance to lower power bills substantially. Also if the school system chooses to build south of the existing middle/high school site, all of the athletics and extracurricular activities would all be on one master campus. The existing gymnasium could be kept for the community and after-school programs. This solution also keeps the students functioning in their day to day lives during the duration of construction.

Both the elementary school and the middle/high school are very inefficient buildings. One of most obvious causes for this is the egregious amount of exterior doors in the facilities. Doors are frequently problematic components of a building’s thermal envelope. Typical issues include heat loss from air movement during operation, heat loss from air movement through the perimeter detail, and radiant heat loss through the door materials themselves. Doorframes that do not incorporate adequate thermal isolation form thermal bridges that tend to lead to wintertime condensation. Overall door thermal performance is a function of the type of operation, the glazing (if applicable), the frame and perimeter details, the sash and sash weather stripping, and the door materials. Heat loss from air leakage is the most significant challenge to thermal performance for heavily used entrance and exit doors. This is what can cause monthly utility bills to be higher than buildings of the same size with better building envelopes. The only way to solve this issue would be to remove all exterior classroom doors and block/brick in the voids. This would be a very expensive mediation that Seminole County cannot afford. Power bills at both campuses typically average around $52,000 a month. A new facility’s power bill would average about $17,000 a month. This alone is a savings of $400,000 or more.

Another major issue that comes with so many exterior doors is water leakage. Water leakage through or around doors can contribute to indoor air quality (IAQ) problems by supplying moisture for mold growth. This leakage can often remain concealed within the wall system or flooring and not become evident until concealed wall components experience significant deterioration and mold growth

Comprehensive Facility Assessment Report - Altman & Barrett

This K-12 facility would be paid for through our ESPLOST. An Education Special Purpose Location Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) allows local districts to ask voters for the ability to levy and collect a one percent sales tax to help fund school facility and equipment improvements. It cannot be used to pay operation expenses, such as salaries. ESPLOSTs are enacted by referendum. The ESPLOST vote will take place in November 2021. If approved, the sales tax would remain at its current level. A “yes” vote would simply extend the current 1% sales tax for education an additional five years. This is not a new tax.

The Seminole County School System qualifies for Low Wealth Project Specific Funding, which is designed to assist systems that rank in the bottom 25% in SPLOST earnings to build schools. Through this program, we are eligible for approximately $32 million for a K-12 facility. The total cost of the project is approximately $44 million.

The school system will need to renew the ESPLOST in future years. The school system will need to issue bonds for up to $12 million. Because that is more than the five year SPLOST cycle will collect, renewal ESPLOSTS will be necessary to retire the bonds. This is common practice used in school systems to accomplish major projects.

The ESPLOST is not a property tax. It provides a method of funding the cost of educational improvements that everyone, not just property owners, contributes to. Additionally, the sales tax is paid by everyone who shops in Seminole County. State laws prohibit using ESPLOST proceeds for salaries.

SAFETY & SEPARATION. Schools are designed with student safety in mind. They are designed with fewer exterior entrances, better security features, improved sight lines for monitoring, etc. With the current health pandemic, they are also designed to provide better indoor air quality and reduce the number of allergens and pathogens in the buildings.

As this will be a PreK-12 facility, the separation of students will be a top priority. We will have a design where the younger students are totally separated from the older students. We can also group and separate the students in traditional grade spans (PreK-5), (6-8), and (9-12). Safety is a concern with our present schools. There are over 163 exterior doors. A new school this size would have less than 25 exterior doors.

The ESPLOST extension helps keep ad valorem taxes stable. Additionally, the children are not the only ones who benefit from good schools. The social and economic strength of a community are greatly influenced by the school system. Good schools mean well-prepared citizens, a strong labor market, and an inviting atmosphere for living and working. Having quality facilities sends the message that education is important in our community.

If the ESPLOST does not pass in November, we would not be able to construct a new school. We would need to have another election to renew the ESPOST to continue to maintain our current buildings that are 70 (SCES) and 26 (SCM/HS) years old. If that ESPLOST did not pass, we would have to rely on property taxes to maintain our aging facilities.

A complete and detailed analysis of both schools and the plans for a new facility can be found on the school system website under the new school tab. Altman and Barrett Architects team prepared the report.

Teams of teachers will begin meeting with architects after Spring Break to get their input. A series of public forums will be hosted by the Board of Education as the ESPLOST vote nears.