The special purpose local option sales tax for education (ESPLOST) is a widely used alternative capital funding source for school districts in Georgia.
First adopted in 1997, almost all of the state’s county-level local boards of education and its independent school districts levy an ESPLOST, although the tax must be renewed at least every five years. Proponents of the tax promote ESPLOST adoption because of its potential as a cost-saving measure: ESPLOST revenues, which must be used for capital projects, can be targeted to replace old infrastructure, reducing the maintenance costs spent on aging facilities and equipment.
Is this what happens? In a recent policy brief, CSLF research associate Chris Thayer investigates whether ESPLOST actually reduces capital maintenance spending. The author reviews the history of ESPLOST in Georgia and the existing research on the tax, then explores the link between capital spending and lower maintenance spending across Georgia’s school districts.
Although the brief casts doubt on the claims that ESPLOST revenues reduce maintenance spending, Thayer suggests that maintenance cost savings are possible if district leaders and ESPLOST project planners prioritize more cost-effective, upgrade-oriented maintenance projects.
Average ESPLOST Receipts Per Pupil, 2001-17 (2017 dollars)