The recent redistricting of the Duluth and Peachtree Ridge school clusters has received a lot of attention lately, and rightly so. As we, the community of Gwinnett County, seek to make our schools the best we can for our children, it is important that we have informed and civil debate, agree to disagree, and maintain our unity by focusing on the success of our county as a whole. The county of Gwinnett has been faced with tremendous growth since the '90s. As a result, the county has had to contend with the challenges that come with the rapid growth it has seen.
One of the challenges is obtaining the funding to build the appropriate amount of schools to accommodate the children in the county. In addition to property taxes, Gwinnett County receives funding monies from SPLOST. Georgia law allows local jurisdictions to use sales tax proceeds as funding for capital improvement projects that would otherwise be paid for with general fund and property-tax revenues. This sales-tax revenue is authorized by Georgia law as a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).
SPLOST III went into effect July 1, 2007, and will last through June 30, 2012. Due to Gwinnett County Public Schools continued enrollment growth and the projected continuation of that growth for the foreseeable future, new schools and other capital improvements for the additional students are an ongoing, pressing need. SPLOST III is projected to generate, at best, $1.1 billion – enough funding to cover 40 to 50 percent of the known classroom and capital needs. The Gwinnett County Board of Education is expected to ask voters to continue the school SPLOST in November.
Sean Murphy, Duluth resident and business owner stated: “For companies like NCR that have moved to Gwinnett and created thousands of jobs, one major criteria is the strength of the local school system. With GCPS recently winning the Broad prize, Gwinnett is well positioned to keep recruiting new employers to the county. The SPLOST vote this November will be key to keeping the education in Gwinnett world class and give our county the edge in bringing high paying jobs here. I really hope that all clusters in Gwinnett can unite and work together to make sure our kids have the resources available to get a true 21st century education."
So while we have healthy debate about how our Board of Education handles the challenges of rapid growth, let us agree that our main goal is to have a thriving local economy that provides outstanding education to our children who will then have a desire to come back to Gwinnett County and build their lives here. As a county, Gwinnett has much to offer. We must remember this as we work together to build a community that sets us apart from our neighboring counties. SPLOST is one way we achieve our educational goals, so vote yes in November to continue SPLOST.