A proposed county school
facilities tax never took flight at
the Aug. 7 Loudon County commission
meeting, for lack of motion to vote
on it or a related rezoning
As county population grows, so
does school enrollment. According to
Tennessee Dept. of Education, in
1991 county schools had 3,885
students and Lenoir City had 1,831;
in 2005, both had risen to 4,925 and
2,159, respectively. From 1999 to
2005, each system showed an increase
of more than 200 students.
Signed by Gov. Phil
Bredesen as Public Chapter
953, the facilities tax which passed
General Assembly this spring may be
enacted by counties meeting certain
growth criteria. It allows a
government to collect up to $1 per
square foot on each new residence
permitted after enactment, to fund
new school facilities.
In addition, commission suggested
a moratorium on residential rezoning
in crowded districts until it adopts
a facilities and funding plan.
"We've outgrown our county,"
resident Bill Campbell, Jr.
told commission at the meeting. He
was one of several speakers and one
of few in favor of the tax.
"A wheel tax would be better,"
countered Nathan Simpson,
who is getting ready to build a
house. He added it would spread the
burden instead of placing it all on
homeowners. "Even Mexicans have
cars. And most people I know have
three or four (vehicles)."
Other suggestions included a real
estate transfer fee on all homes. By
and large, developers opposed a
facilities tax. More than one talked
about the softening housing market
in response to higher interest
rates, and that someone who can
build a 4,000 square-foot home can
more easily afford $4,000 than
someone building only 1,800 square
feet can $1,800.
In that vein, resident
Mark White talked about
visiting a village outside Chicago
in which even a hotel manager he
polled couldn't afford to live. "It
really cuts the poor people out of
your county," he admonished.
On the other hand, Ned
MacDonald said, "I don't
believe if you're spending $75 a
square foot ... that you're going to
stop because it goes up to $76 a
Commissioner Van Shaver,
who suggested a building moratorium
last year "and got snickered at,"
couldn't support this one because it
did not apply to the cities in
Loudon County. "Too vague and
open-ended" is how Commissioner
described the proposal, though he
urged county planning commission to
"There's not any rush to judgment
to do this tonight," Doyle
Arp, who will take over as
county mayor in September, said. The
legislation is untested, and Arp
said if commission passes it without
proper information and is sued, "I'm
going to throw up my hands and say
'I told you so.'"
Arp explained once in office, he
is going to ask the Board of
Education to hire an outside
consultant to opine on needed school
facilities, rather than rely on
local politics to decide them.
County Director of Schools
Edward Headlee said
the board is working on a long-term
facilities (and funding) plan; a
rough preliminary estimate of how
much it would take to buy land and
build everything right now is
perhaps $130 million.