A new North Springs High School and updates to other Sandy Springs schools would be funded by an Educational Special Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) if voters approve another five-year extension of the one-penny sales tax.

Officials with Fulton County Schools on Oct. 19 spoke with Sandy Springs City Council to explain the upcoming vote.

Fulton County built Riverwood High School in sections so no classrooms or programs had to shut down during construction, which is one option available for construction of a new North Springs High.

“On Nov. 2, the voters of Fulton County will be asked whether they want to continue the ESPLOST … as a funding mechanism for our school systems’ capital needs, and more specifically, the Capital Plan 2027,” said Board of Education President Julia Bernath. 

The North Springs cluster has major school replacement and renovation projects, said Noel Maloof, chief operating officer for the Fulton school system. That includes a new North Springs High School as Reporter Newspapers previously reported

Bernath said it takes about two years to construct a high school once the design plans have been drawn up.

North Springs is a bit ahead because bridging funds are being used for design work and public input, Maloof said. An architect already is in place, which also should help the project move ahead, Bernath said.

Bernath told Councilmember John Paulson that the school district has not decided what it will do with North Springs students during construction. Options include leaving the existing building in place and constructing the new school after tearing down athletic facilities on the site. Or, they could build the new school in sections and move students temporarily into other schools.

Major renovations will also take place at Sandy Springs Middle School and Dunwoody Springs Elementary School, including roofing, flooring, ceilings, plumbing and restrooms, HVAC systems and LED lighting upgrades. 

Spalding Drive, Ison Springs and Woodland Elementary schools have targeted infrastructure improvement plans including LED lighting, media center renovations and IT continuity projects, Maloof said

In the Riverwood cluster, Riverwood High School, though relatively new, will get an upgrade to LED lighting, which was not in its original plans. The school district will install artificial turf on the practice field, something being done at every school in the district.

High Point Elementary School will have freezer cooler upgrades in the cafeteria, LED lighting upgrades and a media center renovation. Backup generators, air conditioning and IT network improvements also are scheduled. 

Ridge View Middle School will have infrastructure projects including roof replacement, and Heards Ferry and Lake Forest Elementary schools also will have the energy efficiency upgrades and other infrastructure work.

The capital plan total is $1.23 billion. Out of that plan, 53% goes to the facilities master plan.

“The technology plan takes up 25%, which is a 58% increase over previous capital plans, so we’re making a major investment in our technology plan,” Maloof said.

Without voter approval of ESPLOST, the school district would need to raise its millage rate by approximately 5.68 mills. That would cost a homeowner whose property was valued at $250,000 another $567 per year for five years, he said. If a general obligation bond was used instead, the millage rate would still have to be raised. But in addition, homeowners would be paying about the same amount extra for five more years to pay off the bond.

The last bond issue the school district made was before 1997, and it was just paid off in 2020, Bernath said.

“Option three is what the taxpayers have voted for in the past 25 years, is to continue the SPLOST funding that we mentioned earlier in the presentation. This is the one-penny sales tax that goes to every sale in Fulton County,” Maloof said.

Bernath warned voters that on the ballot ESPLOST does not appear on the screen unless they scroll down the page. Hitting the “next” button will just skip the question, she said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.