Proposed Projects for proposed E-SPLOST IV (2014-2019)
Safety and Security: ($4,975,000) 6%
Guest Lobbies (control access to the facility) ($200,000)
o BES, HCE, LES, FSE, CJH, JHH, PCE
Access control for all locations ($950,000)
Surveillance equipment ($1,500,000)
GPS on Fleet units ($650,000)
Communications equipment ($350,000)
Fencing and site property access controls ($175,000)
Emergency lockdown control hardware ($1,150,000)
Technology: ($20,000,000) 24%
Improving, upgrading, and equipping high technology interactive classrooms of the future
Technology network infrastructure and network capacity
Increased and upgraded
Acquiring individual student devices
Facilities: ($58,625,000) 70%
New Schools: ($32,000,000)
New Pine Street ES ($16,000,000)
New JH House ES ($16,000,000)
Additions and Renovations: ($16,100,000)
RCA Addition ($5,400,000)
DMS Addition ($3,000,000)
o PCE, HCE, LES ($6,000,000)
Renovate Main Street for Open Campus ($700,000)
Renovate PSE for Central Office ($1,000,000)
Miscellaneous Upgrades/Improvements ($10,525,000)
HS/MS auditorium upgrades $680,000
o Rigging, Curtains
o Light system improvements (8 sites)
o Sound system improvements
Band Uniforms and major band Instruments ($1,000,000)
Painting Schools (7 year rotation) ($1,300,000)
Miscellaneous Site Work Improvements ($3,730,000)
o Science laboratories
o Technology laboratories
o Classroom power additions
o Upgrade flooring/Ceilings
o Pavement, curbing, striping
o Site work development
o RCHS Bleacher Improvement
o Track improvements
o Artificial turf on stadium fields
o 11 buses ($1,000,000)
o 19 white fleet vehicles ($415,000)
Land Acquisition: ($2,400,000)
o 120 acres (future ES/MS/HS)
New facilities for two of the county's oldest elementary schools, technology replacements and expansions, and better security for schools and busses are just some of the projects proposed for the $83.6 million education penny sales tax that will be on the ballot in November.
Rockdale County school board members got a look Thursday night at the proposed capital projects to be funded from the education special purpose local sales tax (E-SPLOST), which collects one penny for every retail sales dollar spent in the county. If it passes in November, it is projected to collect $83.6 million over five years and would be Rockdale's fourth E-SPLOST.
The largest share, 70 percent or $58.6 million, would go toward building new facilities and renovating school buildings.
Pine Street Elementary and JH House Elementary would have entirely new school buildings constructed at locations to be determined at an estimated cost of about $16 million each. Pine Street Elementary, located next to the county courthouse in Olde Town, is 55 years old. JH House Elementary, located on Georgia 20 north, is not far behind at 45 years old.
The existing PSE facility would be used to bring RCPS central office departments under one roof. Currently they are spread between N. Main Street and leased space on West Avenue. Open Campus would move into the RCPS central office facility on N. Main Street.
Other schools would have additional classrooms built, including Rockdale Career Academy, Davis Middle School, Peek's Chapel Elementary, Honey Creek Elementary, and Lorraine Elementary.
The high school and middle school theaters and auditoriums would have improvements to lighting and sound systems. Tracks and fields at high schools and middle schools would be renovated, with possible artificial turf on stadium fields.
About $1 million would be slated for band uniforms and instruments, which Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis said technically counts as capital since it lasts beyond a year.
About $2.4 million would be set aside for land acquisition for the site of an additional school in the future.
Technology is slated for the next largest chunk, 24 percent or $20 million. This would include replacing and updating existing computers, which are already six years behind schedule for replacement due to budget cuts. This would also equip interactive classrooms, address disaster recovery and document management, increase the network capacity and infrastructure, and help acquire individual student devices.
Security improvements to the buildings and busses would take about 6 percent or $4.975 million. This would include guest lobbies that allow controlled access to the school at Barksdale Elementary, Honey Creek Elementary, Lorraine Elementary, Flat Shoals Elementary, CJ Hicks Elementary, JH House Elementary, and Rockdale County High School. More powerful surveillance cameras would be installed.
For school busses, active GPS units would be installed to track their movements in real time.
Board member Sharon Pharr asked if there was a citizens' oversight committee to monitor and hold accountable the spending and progress on the projects, similar to the SPLOST Citizen Oversight Committee for the county/city's SPLOST, a one penny sales tax for capital projects.
Superintendent Richard Autry said there was not but there was a committee of citizens that would be talking about the E-SPLOST leading up to November, since the school system and school board members were not allowed to advocate or go beyond stating the facts about the E-SPLOST.
Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis said the E-SPLOST accounts are kept separately and audited separately from general fund accounts. Operations and Facilities Officer Phil Budensiek said most of his monthly reports to the school board were on E-SPLOST funded projects.
Pharr also asked if these projects would require increased personnel, especially the technology replacements and expansion.
"We're not proposing this with a need for additional personnel. There is nothing on the back end we see at this point and time," said Autry. "But when you start rolling this out two to three years down the line, will there be different software, app needs? I'm not going to tell you that won't be the situation. But going into this up front, I do not see any necessary general funding."
Assistant Superintendent Gene Baker also pointed out getting back to regularly replacing computers would eliminate the need for repairs, which the school staff is not equipped to do.
The E-SPLOST III, which just concluded collections in March 2013, collected only about 75 percent, $94.8 million, of what planners had originally anticipated before the economic recession. However RCPS was able to finish and fund all the projects on its list, partly due to cheaper costs during a recession, said Davis. Some of the projects built with E-SPLOST III funds include the Rockdale Career Academy public safety wing expansion, new school busses, repainting and school repairs.
E-SPLOST funds can be used for bond debt payment or capital projects. RCPS was able to pay off its debt obligations with previous E-SPLOSTs.