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Coweta school enrollment growing despite recession

Coweta County voters recently approved the continuation of a one-cent sales tax for education that will begin next year. And from the looks of the boom in enrollment in recent years those revenue funds will be needed.

Viewed over the past decade, the increase in student enrollment has essentially mirrored the county’s population growth. The Coweta population in 2010 was 127,317, according to recently released census figures. The Coweta County School System back in 2001 had an enrollment of 16,800. Ten years later that figure has grown to 22,438.

Looking at the past five years, Coweta’s student enrollment was 21,206 in 2007, 21,719 in 2008, 22,138 in 2009, 22,501 in 2010 and 22,438 in 2011. The decrease of 63 students between this school year and last was the first on record for the school system.

The one-cent sales tax for education, often called an ESPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education), was approved for continuation by Coweta voters in March and will extend the current sales tax from July 2012 until June 2017.

According to school system spokesperson Dean Jackson, the types of projects that can be funded with ESPLOST include new school construction or classroom additions to keep up with Coweta’s growth, the purchase of equipment such as school buses and school technology, and improvements to existing schools. A large portion of the funds from ESPLOST are used for improvement projects at existing schools such as painting, roofing and flooring replacement, heating and air systems and major renovations at older schools.

ESPLOST can only be used to finance school construction, improvements, equipment purchases and other capital project needs of the school system, Jackson said, and does not fund salaries or programs. ESPLOST is separate from the one-cent sales tax used by cities and the county to fund roads and their capital projects, Jackson added.

Jackson said the Coweta County Board of Education intends to finance several capital projects within the general categories listed on the March ESPLOST referendum. The school board plans for future construction and capital expenditures through its regularly-updated 5-year construction plan. Projects currently identified on the school system’s 5-year construction plan current are:

·Technology (system wide)

·School buses

·Text books/digital media

·New high school and high school classroom additions

·New elementary school

·Transportation facility

·Paving (26 schools and system locations)

·Painting (14 schools and system locations)

·Floor covering (13 schools and system locations)

·Evans Middle School addition

·East Coweta High School renovations and improvements

·Northgate High School renovations and improvements

·Newnan High School renovations and addition

·Canongate Elementary School renovations and improvements

·Newnan Crossing Elementary School renovations and improvements
·Arnall Middle School renovations and improvements

·Thomas Crossroads Elementary School renovations and improvements

·Jefferson Parkway Elementary School renovations and improvements

·Winston Dowdell Academy renovations and improvements

·Turf athletic fields (high schools)

·Air-conditioning at elementary multi-purpose buildings

·Air-conditioning at middle school and high school gymnasiums

·Land acquisition for future school sites

Jackson noted that the school board may or may not finance specific projects depending on factors such as the rate of collections of ESPLOST revenues over the 5-year period (2012-2017) or the needs presented by changes to the rate or patterns of enrollment growth across Coweta County during that time.

Jackson said the project list does not indicate the priority of the projects listed. Sales tax collections may be less than or more than the estimated amounts. In the event that the collections are less than the estimated amounts over a 5-year period of the ESPLOST, the school board may reduce the cost of one or more projects or it may abandon a project.

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