Cobb School District Sales Tax Revenue ‘Amazes’
Feb. 16 – The Cobb County School District collected $15 million more in sales tax revenue last year than it had anticipated, another sign of the strength of the economy District’s favorable financial status and condition prior to 2023 budget negotiations.
The tax, approved by voters in 2017, went into effect in 2019 and was then expected to raise nearly $800 million when it expires at the end of 2023. Cobb School Board member David Banks wondered at the meeting council in February if the district would hit that mark by 2024.
Despite the levy’s stellar performance last year, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said he would not engage in speculation about whether the district would exceed the $800 million estimate.
“I don’t think anyone expected revenue to do what they did in the middle of the pandemic,” Ragsdale said. “Just as we didn’t expect the revenue to do what it did in the state… (they) can just as easily take a tank, because obviously we’re seeing the highest inflation in the — in my story anyway.”
The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, is approved by voters in a referendum and is in addition to a 4% sales tax levied by the state. In Cobb, sales tax is 6%, of which 4% is collected for the state, 1% for the county government’s SPLOST, and 1% for the Cobb and Marietta school districts’ SPLOST.
Although the school district takes inflation into account when compiling a slate of SPLOST-funded projects, “the kind of price spike we’ve seen in building materials has never been seen before in construction industry,” Ragsdale said.
The district expected the tax to raise nearly $159 million in 2021, according to Brad Johnson, the district’s chief financial officer. Instead, it raised just over $174 million – a nearly 10% overage and 16% increase from the $149 million raised the previous year.
“These gains for our SPLOST program are staggering, given that we are still in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic,” Johnson told school board members.
Johnson said the tax performance is a mix of Georgia’s strong post-pandemic recovery and the state legislature’s 2020 decision to impose state sales taxes on online purchases. facilitated by major retailers like Amazon, Google and Uber.
“It should almost be that … because there is simply no other variable” to explain the magnitude of this increase, he said. – Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.