Both school districts in Bartow County have taken big hits in their SPLOST revenue due to the state's COVID-19 shutdown, but last month's collection showed improvement as more and more businesses began reopening.
Figures for April through July collections, which were for funds generated in the months of March through June, showed decreases in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds for the Bartow County and Cartersville City school systems as a result of the county being unable to collect the 1-cent sales tax when most businesses had been closed down.
"Due to the closure and the uncertainty of the economic impact of the closure, we didn't know what to expect with future SPLOST collections," BCSS Chief Financial Officer Megan Brown said.
"We are down 4.78% for the year," CCSS Chief Financial Officer Richard Dyke said. "We honestly did not know what to expect from COVID."
But fortunately, the loss of revenue has not endangered any of the systems' capital projects or Bartow County's $9.6 million payment, due in October, on the $45 million bond from 2016.
"We ensured we had funds set aside to make the debt service payments and complete the pending projects and began evaluating future projects' timelines with various collection scenarios," Brown said, noting any adjustments that need to be made can be done through project modifications. "Now we feel more comfortable making upcoming projections for future projects as we see collections have averaged less than a 10% reduction from the prior year."
Dyke said there's "no impact on current or future projects" as of now for Cartersville, which doesn't have any bonds to repay at the moment.
The worst month for both systems has been April, when Bartow County received a check for its share of the March collection that was 11.88% lower than last March — $1,316,925 in 2020 compared to $1,473,437.27 in 2019 — and Cartersville saw an 11.91% decrease in its share — $407,665.07 in 2020 compared to $456,228.37 in 2019.
The other three months showed roughly the same percentage of lost revenue for both systems.
Bartow County's figures were:
- May check for April funds, $1,377,265 in 2020 and $1,487,504.05 in 2019, an 8% decrease.
- June check for May funds, $1,436,383.99 in 2020 and $1,556,849 in 2019, an 8.39% decrease.
- July check for June funds, $1,498,026.65 in 2020 and $1,534,742.30 in 2019, a 2.45% decrease.
For Cartersville, the figures were:
- May, $425,586.64 in 2020 and $460,068.29 in 2019, an 8.1% decrease.
- June, $443,316.59 in 2020 and $479,555.87 in 2019, an 8.17% decrease.
- July, $462,865.68 in 2020 and $474,229 in 2019, a 2.45% decrease.
Brown said the district budgets monthly SPLOST collections of $1.3 million to cover the annual bond payment as well as capital projects such as renovations to buildings and facilities, technology improvements and buses.
"As collections vary from month to month, we use this amount to ensure current projects can be paid in full and all debt service obligations are met," she said.
Dyke said Cartersville budgets $350,000 per month in SPLOST funds to cover its capital improvements.
"The next large project is the expansion of the cafeteria and redesign of the front office for security at Cartersville High School," he said.
Brown said she doesn't have any idea when SPLOST revenues might return to last year's levels.
"It is very difficult to determine SPLOST collections in a normal economy when everything is operating at full capacity so trying to predict what they will be now is nearly impossible," she said. "We are hopeful we will continue with the collections increasing back to last year’s collection rates, but at this time, only time will tell."