Dalton Public Schools makes plans for funds from second half of ESPLOST V

File/Daily Citizen-News

Dalton High School coach Rhett Hammontree and assistant coach Brian Harrison use Turface field conditioner behind home plate in a March game to dry wet spots in the batter's box. The baseball field has dips and "doesn't drain well," said Rusty Lount, director of operations for Dalton Public Schools, so the system plans to use Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) funds to make drainage and grading improvements to the field. 

Roughly halfway through Dalton Public Schools current Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST), the system has a cash balance of nearly $4 million, and it expects another $15 million the rest of the way.

That $15 million figure assumes monthly revenues of $530,000, which is conservative, as the current average has been $570,000, but Dalton Public Schools chief financial officer Theresa Perry felt the lower estimate was prudent as the country is now in a recession due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, she said Monday night during a Dalton Board of Education work session at Dalton Middle School. ESPLOST revenues for February-August were down 4% from the prior six months.

However, overall revenues for ESPLOST V are $1 million higher to this point than Perry had projected, she said. "We're at month 29 and have 31 months to go on ESPLOST V."

The system still owes roughly $8.8 million on revenue bond debt service, and "we will make sure ESPLOST takes care of that first and foremost," she said. "We initially borrowed $13 million," and this is a five-year payment plan.

The system also hopes to utilize roughly $4.3 million in ESPLOST funds for technology and approximately $7.2 million for facility projects, she said. ESPLOST "funds most of our capital projects."

Those technology upgrades include refreshing of devices for students and staff, as well as public address systems in buildings, said Stuart Davis, director of technology and telecommunications for Dalton Public Schools. There's also wireless and switching infrastructure improvements planned over the course of the next two years at several buildings.

In terms of facilities, the system budgeted $4.5 million to create The Dalton Academy, a magnet school for grades 10-12 on the campus of the current Dalton Middle School, but that's at the high end of costs, said Rusty Lount, Dalton Public Schools director of operations. "We hope to come in under budget."

Lount also budgeted $600,000 for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) ionization retrofitting at buildings where that work hasn't already been completed, he said. "Fingers crossed, we go out four bids this week."

Since Lount joined Dalton Public Schools eight years ago, he's made a point of installing ionization air cleaners on (HVAC) units at the schools where his department performs renovations, he explained last month. Among other benefits, they improve air quality, eliminate foul odors and are easier on air filters, but this technology is also ideal for stopping the coronavirus.

The combination of ionization and ultraviolet (UV) light "can kill the pathogens," he added. "These are great products, and I do see the benefits."

Another $400,000 is earmarked for drainage and grading at the Dalton High School baseball field, which has dips and "doesn't drain well," Lount said Monday. "It actually ponds when it rains heavily."

Lount is set to meet with an architect and civil engineer next week regarding the project, he said. "We've got to deal with this, (because) we need to make it safer for athletes."

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