Capital projects limited in North Fulton through 2017

Only one new school planned in area



NORTH FULTON, Ga. – With the exception of a new elementary school in Roswell, additions to three middle schools and a career tech extension at Cambridge High, the school construction boom has slowed considerably in North Fulton, at least through 2017.

During an April 16 meeting of the Fulton School Board, a plan for capital projects remaining in the 2012-2017 cycle was presented. The five-year cycle mirrors the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) term; the one-cent sales tax expected to generate $800 million for construction and technology needs in the 2012-17 timeframe.

The construction plan for the system is based mostly on expected classroom needs through 2017, as well as existing needs at schools. Based on projections, the need for new classrooms in North Fulton will not be as great as in Sandy Springs and South Fulton schools in the coming years.

“A lot of the capital program is driven purely by classroom needs, but we [also consider] renovation needs,” said Patrick Burke, deputy superintendent for operations for the Fulton County School System (FCSS). “Every year, we look at this to readjust and refine…to make the best use of taxpayer dollars and give us that lens to the future.”

Projections show classroom space in North Fulton elementary and middle schools is sufficient through 2018 with the opening of the new Roswell elementary school and middle school additions at Hopewell, Taylor Road and Autrey Mill.

However, overcrowding will remain an issue in North Fulton high schools, said Burke. Based on current projections, area high schools, in total, will be over state capacity by 418 students by 2018.

Burke said the career tech addition at Cambridge High School, opening in winter 2015, will not increase the capacity of that school. The decision on how to address the overcrowding in high schools will be made in the next capital cycle, beginning in 2018.

A planned addition to Crabapple Middle School is on hold while planners look at plans to rebuild the school sometime after 2018. Burke said renovation needs at the school top $18 million, while a complete rebuild is $28 million.

“At some point, you have to ask yourself if you have the right budget and the right project,” said Burke. “It has become clear there is a better solution.”

Burke said basic upgrades, such as new carpet, will be made to the school to keep it in good shape until a decision is made on a rebuild.

An administrative consolidation that will move the school system headquarters to North Fulton is still moving forward. The headquarters and the North Learning Center are on schedule to be completed before the end of this calendar year; the South Learning Center will be complete in winter 2015.

“The really good news is we continue to be in a very strong position for executing [the capital program] according to plan, and our reserves will continue to increase as our revenues increase,” said Burke.

SPLOST revenues expected to be 8 percent higher

$60 million ‘surplus’ projected

ATLANTA – An improving economy could be a huge boon to revenues collected for the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) for the Fulton County School System (FCSS) through its current five-year cycle.

Based on projections by a local economist, school officials anticipate a $60 million increase over initial projections made in 2012. The current SPLOST, which is the fourth renewal of the one-cent sales tax to fund education initiatives, ends in June 2017.

Robert Morales, chief financial officer for FCSS, said the initial SPLOST projections of $742.5 million over the five-year period were purposely conservative given the economic picture at the time.

Based on current revenue growth, FCSS expects to bring in nearly $803 million – a $60 million increase – by the end of the SPLOST. The one-cent sales tax was first approved by voters in 1997, and has been renewed three times since then.

SPLOST IV proceeds are dedicated for capital improvements, construction and technology initiatives across the school system. Any surplus will likely be used to cover unanticipated construction costs and to purchase land for future schools and facilities.

The law does not allow the school system to add additional projects that were not identified in the original SPLOST documents approved by voters in 2012.

“We are trending in a very good position,” said Morales during his report to the Fulton School Board on April 16.

JC 05-01-14

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