The Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax provides the framework for facilities growth aligned with the District’s Strategic Plan. The first ESPLOST went into effect on January 1, 2007, and brought about upgrades, new schools, and improvements to school technology. The funds were used in two ways; the first included $67 million dollars to retire existing bond debt over the five year period. Secondly, the remaining funds were used to build new schools, and provide facility and technology upgrades.
On November, 8th, 2011, the citizens of Savannah-Chatham County overwhelmingly approved the continuation of this one percent sales tax. The ESPLOST extension is for a $330 million limit or 5 years (whichever comes first) and will be used to continue the improvement of facilities and equipment, as well as technology resource upgrades for students, school renovations, and security enhancements. Additionally, the extension will pay $47 million dollars of previously incurred bond debt. Without ESPLOST the payment of bond debt may have resulted in increased property taxes. The ESPLOST extension provides a method of funding that everyone pays, not just property owners, as sales tax is paid by everyone who shops or stays in Chatham County. A majority of these funds are generated by people who live outside Chatham County.
Should another ESPLOST continuation pass in Chatham County, existing bond debt will continue to be paid, resulting in the eventual elimination of $139,706,985 million dollars of bond debt. And the ESPLOST program is not a new tax - it is a continuation of an already existing, voter approved penny sales tax. As more and more families choose public education for their children, capital improvement continues to be a critical success factor for the accommodation of enrollment growth and facility improvements. Now serving more than 38,000 students, Savannah-Chatham Public Schools see an increase in enrollment on an average of 600 new students each year. With the support of ESPLOST dollars, new schools and facility improvements have contributed to the expansion of the school district and the many success stories we have enjoyed, such as a graduation rate that now tops the state average!
We hope you will find the following pages useful and full of important information. In November 2016, a referendum for the continuation of ESPLOST will be included on the voter ballot. The information on this website will provide an understanding of level of stewardship and oversight provided for the use of this valued penny sales tax. You will find spending reports, project details, and public meeting information to illustrate the power our pennies are having right here in Chatham County, and their impact on the advancement of public education for our community.