Gwinnett school board OKs referendum on nearly $1 billion SPLOST

Gwinnett County residents will be asked to vote in November on continuing a 1 percent sales tax to raise nearly $1 billion to pay for the construction of several new schools, to make improvements to other schools and for other technology enhancements.

If approved, the new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax would begin in July 2017 and end in June 2022. Gwinnett, the state’s largest school district, would get about $928 million from the tax. The Buford city school district would collect about $22 million, according to school system projections.

Gwinnett school board members Thursday evening unanimously approved the request to put the referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot. Buford school officials are scheduled to approve the referendum plan Friday.

Gwinnett would use the money to build four new schools in the central part of the county. They want to build a new high school in the Norcross area, a high school in the Meadowcreek area and two new elementary schools.

“We have several spots in the county where we will be in need of new facilities,” Gwinnett Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said during the meeting.

Gwinnett school district spokeswoman Sloan Roach explained much of the district's growth has been in that part of the county and it needs to ease overcrowding. Norcross and Meadowcreek high schools had the second- and the sixth-largest enrollments in Georgia, respectively, during the last school year.

“Those are areas where we feel like we need more help in terms of relief,” Roach said.

Gwinnett would use the rest of the money to build additions or make renovations to at least nine other schools, mostly in the central part of the county. About one-third of the money would go toward technology improvements, such as new computers, in schools.

About 90 percent of Gwinnett voters approved the last sales tax in November 2011. Gwinnett has completed two-thirds of the projects on its current list, district officials said in a presentation Thursday.