The Henry County Board of Education is committed to providing the children of Henry County opportunities, access, and positive educational outcomes. This commitment was recognized when they were named a finalist for governance team of the year in 2020. Our board is responsible for the 8th largest district in the state, which educates 43,000 students with a dedicated team of 6,000 plus employees, making Henry County Schools the largest employer in the county. Our unified governance team is strengthened by our defined governance model which includes core beliefs and commitments, a plan of action, and a strategic plan of which our community is responsible for shaping. Believing in the imporatance of community voice, the HCBOE engaged with thousands of community members to hear their ideas for our schools, and several themes emerged as needs from our community. Technology, preparing for growth, fine arts programs, STEM and robotics programs, school safety and security, and transportation were some of the major takeaways from those conversations.
E-SPLOST or the Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax was an answer to a problem many school systems in this state faced with the quandary of how to keep up with growth in their schools and needed support while utilizing a general operating budget that is made up largely of salaries and benefits for teachers and staff. The state legislature and citizens in Georgia helped solve that by passing a constitutional amendment that allowed school districts to put before voters a measure that would create a one-cent sales tax to support capital projects in the school district.
Henry County Schools, like many other districts in the state, jumped at the opportunity and the first ESPLOST was passed by voters in 1997. The first pennies started rolling in the following year. It is important to note that E-SPLOST collections cover a five-year period, and districts wishing to continue the collections must put a ballot referendum before the voters to allow them to support a continuation or decline it. Henry County voters have overwhelmingly supported this continuation for 4 - E-SPLOSTs since the first one was approved. We are currently completing projects from E-SPLOST 5.
E-SPLOST generated funds can only be used for capital projects – construction, technology, transportation, learning equipment/resources – and NOT salaries or benefits. These funds go straight to supporting our students with the most up-to-date facilities and other vital resources for an exceptional education. When considering the role E-SPLOST plays to support our district’s growth, you have to understand that 90 percent of the annual operating budget covers salaries and benefits for 6,000 plus employees. The remaining 10 percent of the annual operating budget covers other general operating expenses. Keeping our buildings and resources current and modern has been possible through E-SPLOST.
Who is paying for E-SPLOST? The simple answer is anyone who eats, sleeps, shops, or has a business in Henry County. When a dollar is spent, a penny is collected for schools. The millions of travelers going north or south on I-75 each year, NASCAR fans flocking to the state’s largest sports venue in Hampton, youth sports teams from the southeast and beyond, and any other groups brought to Henry County, for any reason, contribute to E-SPLOST. When someone comes here, they spend money, and one penny makes its way to supporting our schools. Since the beginning, E-SPLOST in Henry County has resulted in roughly 62 billion pennies making their way to support a wide array of capital projects.
Henry County Schools is no longer a small school system. We have grown substantially over the past 20 plus years since we started utilizing E-SPLOST for support of growth. Henry County has more than doubled in county population and school enrollment. In just the 10 years from 2000 to 2010, we doubled from 20,000 to 40,000 students and ESPLOST was critical in helping us through that.