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Letter: Why Im voting yes for ESPLOST
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Dear Editor: On Tuesday, November 5, residents in Rockdale County have the opportunity to exercise one of our most fundamental rights as American citizens—the right to vote. As you exercise that right I would ask that you cast a "yes" vote for ESPLOST, and I will share with you why I am asking for your vote.

By law, ESPLOST can only be used for debt relief and capital improvement projects. When the school system introduced the first ESPLOST to the community in 1997 our school system carried a bonded indebtedness load of approximately $48 million. Property owners in Rockdale County shouldered that burden.

Voters approved that ESPLOST, and we immediately put into place a plan to pay off that debt. Through that plan the Board of Education eventually lowered the millage rate and saved millions of dollars in interest payments as we moved into ESPLOST II. Paying off that debt allowed us to focus our attention on the other allowable ESPLOST expenditure—capital improvement projects.

Over the years through three voter-approved ESPLOST referendums we added auditoriums at all three high schools and renovated auditoriums at our middle schools. We built Rockdale Career Academy and Open Campus and renovated the Magnet school. We’ve replaced buses and upgraded equipment. We’ve painted schools and installed tile and carpet and a list of other projects to long recap here.

Think about this… we built schools that were paid in full when the first student walked through the door. We’d never done that before ESPLOST, and we could not have done it without ESPLOST.

The three ESPLOST issues have generated more than $243,000,000 for our school system and our students in the past 15 years. That’s million with an M.

Of that, $208 million came from the pennies collected. Estimates are that visitors to a community fund approximately 40% of an ESPLOST. That’s $83 million dollars simply from people shopping in our community. As a property owner in Rockdale County I would like to say thanks for the help!

Approximately $27 million came through the state capital outlay program, and we received this money due to the projects included in the various ESPLOSTs. We generated nearly $6 million in interest on the money collected—that’s $6 million of interest that we invested in our system instead of paying to a bank somewhere. The final $2 million came through project reimbursements and grants we received as a result of the projects on the list. Like households and businesses, our school system is not immune to the economic times we face. But the charge to the school system is the same. We are doing more with less. While the Board did recently increase the millage rate by 1.5 mills keep in mind that increase did not cover the funding reductions the system faced in this last budget cycle. With that slight millage increase the school system will receive $7.2 million less from local property taxes. The school system also faced cuts in state funding of more than $10.3 million for FY 2014. But the charge to the school system is the same. I encourage you to take just a few minutes to visit our ESPLOST IV information page to find the facts of the first three ESPLOST referendums and what we hope to accomplish, with your support, in ESPLOST IV.

Please go to and click on the Community link. On the next page scroll down to the RCPS Fast Facts and click on the ESPLOST IV Facts link. There you will see an outline of this ESPLOST under the three broad categories of Safety and Security, Technology and Facilities.

In order for our children to prosper and our community to survive our school system must thrive. Please vote "yes" on November 5th.


Tony L. Wilson