By Tia Lynn Ivey
Revenues from the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) are down according to school officials.
At a regular Morgan County Board of Education (BOE) meeting earlier this month, the board compared ESPLOST revenues collected in November 2015 to the revenues collected in November 2016, the most recent check the school system has received. November 2016 revenues brought in almost $16,000 less than the November 2015 revenues, coming in at $271,610. The decrease in revenues has also brought down the monthly average from $293,913 to $279,240. If the monthly average does not increase, the BOE will incur a funding gap for its new school building projects. The BOE needs an average of $280,000 in ESPLOST revenues per month to meeting the budgetary projects for the project. Right now, the average is nearly $1,000 under.
“That doesn’t sound like a lot. But over the course of 5 years, that could add up to $60,000 under our budgetary projections,” said Dr. James Woodard, superintendent of schools.
However, Woodard stressed that ESPLOST revenues ebb and flow throughout the year and hopes the average collections will go back up.
“There is no cause for alarm,” said Woodard. “We look at these numbers every month just to keep track of it and so we can adjust accordingly.”
According to Woodard, the prime source of ESPLOST revenues is gas sales, particularly at the “transportation hub” off 441 near I-20.
“We don’t have a lot of retail centers, so most of our revenue comes from gas sales. Part of the reason we are seeing a decrease in revenue this year is because of lower gas prices than we have had in previous years,” explained Woodard.
Woodard noted that if ESPLOST revenue averages do not meet the budgetary projections in coming months and years, the BOE can always supplement the building costs from the general fund or new tax revenues that are anticipated to come in from the Shire project out in Stanton Springs.
Groundbreaking on the new Transportation facility began in late October of 2016. The new high school is slated to began construction this coming March.
“We are staying on track with the timeframe that we laid out to the community. We are always monitoring our tax revenue and will adjust the project accordingly,” said Woodard.