Bibb Board of Education adds charter schools to ESPLOST projects

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Bibb County Board of Education held a public hearing to discuss the FY2016 budget and a workshop Tuesday night to talk about the proposed ESPLOST.

Proposed ESPLOST:

The current education penny sales tax ends on December 31. The school district’s spokesperson tells 41NBC the proposed ESPLOST would raise approximately $150 million for education projects.

The board conducted an online survey and held two public forums to figure out what projects the community would want to have listed on the proposed ESPLOST. According to the survey’s results as of June 8, the top five projects include technology upgrades, playground improvements, energy efficiency improvements, security improvements, and gym air conditioning.

The board also requested a revised proposal to include charter school projects on the ESPLOST. The superintendent will be in charge of figuring out how to include these schools into the proposal. Dr. Curtis Jones tells 41NBC before anything is approved, the board wants to go over each project to make sure it is spending taxpayers’ money wisely.

"We do that by ensuring the projects that are included on the SPLOST are something that they can support and are valid and reliable and can be done," Jones said. "If you end up including items that are not reasonable or feasible, then the public is going to lose confidence in us and what we have to have is their confidence, their trust."

The board will vote on the ESPLOST proposal during next week’s meeting. If approved, it will go for a vote on the November ballot.

The current ESPLOST was approved by county voters in November 2009. The revenue from this sales tax provided many needed district improvements including the new Heard Elementary School, the new Miller Magnet Middle School gym, the new Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, the new Veterans Elementary School, technology upgrades, safety and security improvements, Westside High School renovations, a maintenance/custodial facility, the Elam Alexander Academy at Burke renovation, district athletic improvements, new buses and maintenance vehicles, and many other district wide upgrades.

Public Hearing on FY2016 Budget

Before the ESPLOST workshop, the school board held a public hearing on the proposed FY 2016 budget. It is approximately $287.5 million.

Some highlights from the proposed budget include keeping the millage rate the same, continuing no employee furloughs, keeping assistant principals at all schools, and having a 180 day school year for students and 190 day school year for teachers.

The proposed budget will leave $11 million, or 6.26%, in the general balance fund. According to board policy, the district needs to maintain a minimum general fund balance of 8%. Last month, the board approved a waiver that allows it to have a lower ending balance for FY2016. The general fund is comprised of state, federal, and local funds.

The district plans to make up that difference over the next couple of years.

The Fiscal/Support Services Committee is expected to make its recommendation to the full board on the final adoption of the FY2016 budget during its 4 p.m. committee meeting on June 18. The full board will vote on the budget during its scheduled meeting on that same date at 6 p.m.