When considering improvements to schools, infrastructure, staffing needs and transportation, all of the money required to fund these projects has to be budgeted with care. School systems have to be sure that every penny they spend is done so with improving educational efforts in mind and there are often more projects educators want to offer than there are funds in the coffers. Furthermore, each fund has to be spent according to state guidelines, leading to a segmented approach to solving school challenges.
Sitting down with Tim Williams, Rome City Schools Chief Operations Officer, offered an idea of how difficult juggling the demands of maintaining facilities with the system’s budget can be.
First, he gave information about how school budgets work, and then he detailed the tremendous help Education Special Purpose Location Option Sales Tax IV (ESPLOST) has been for Rome City Schools.
“School nutrition, maintenance, transportation, technology, insurance and finance all fall within my budget. Money we receive from the local, state and federal governments is broken down into several categories that are specific to how we spend that money, Williams explained. “Then we break the budget down within those categories to be even more specific. Because we are in the business of education, around 75 percent of our budget is allocated for instruction.”
Williams then goes on to explain that the remaining funds have to be used for services like buses, facilities, maintenance on existing schools and improving the infrastructure system wide. This is where the extra bump from ESPLOST IV makes a huge difference in what Rome City Schools is able to offer and enhances the educational experience for their students.
“Our ESPLOST IV money is so important because it can be used for capital expenses, which is buildings, technology, computers and other things outside of instruction,” Williams said. “Take the new Main Elementary
for example. We could not build the new school using our regular budget. The money is just not there. This is where ESPLOST IV bridges the gap and allows us to do things that will help the students in our communities.”
Because of the extra boost in the budget from ESPLOST IV, Rome City Schools has now installed HVAC in all of the elementary school gymnasiums; all city schools, maintenance and Rome Transitional Academy will now be equipped with security cameras, and the new Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education Academy is being constructed.
It is important to point out that the new indoor field at Rome High will serve more students than football players, like a practice pad for Jr.ROTC drills, facilities for band practice and other needed spaces for students.
“ESPLOST IV provides students with the facilities they deserve and need, but it also helps us keep up with our one-to-one initiative. This program involves our Chromebooks, where we have one device per student. All of the work and equipment was possible because of ESPLOST IV,” Williams said. “It is also a plus that visitors from other places help to fund these projects through ESPLOST IV, taking a lot of the tax burden off of our community.
As of last month, Rome City Schools is at about $175,000 less than where they anticipated they would be with ESPLOST IV totals. Rome City Schools has collected $21,090,000 to date in ESPLOST IV money.
“The money we collect from ESPLOST IV is a tremendous help to us,” said Williams. “Our high school still looks brand new, and that would not be possible without ESPLOST IV money. Our students deserve it and I’m happy that we have these extra funds to make sure they have a safe and advanced place to learn.”