Seems Simple Enough

1. Nearly everybody in Loudon County knows the school system is in desperate need of improvements.

2. The school board spends a year working with various professionals identifying the the system's most pressing needs.

3. The school board develops a building plan that includes two new schools and two additions/renovations. Cost estimates for the proposed plan, 35-45 million dollars depending on final building decisions and funding available. No tax increase needed for building program.

4. County commission is presented with the building proposal and votes to provide the money needed for the building program.

5. School board builds two new schools and two additions/renovations.

Seems simple enough and in the non political world it might be possible. Unfortunately we live in the real world where apparently politics rein supreme.

Items 1-4 above have been accomplished. Unfortunately after Monday's commission meeting it would appear that number 5 may never happen.

Even though the money has been appropriated for the building program, there is still information needed to determine just exactly how much money will be available which is dependent on what interest rate commission is able to secure for the loan. Commissioner Austin Shaver proposed to commission to allow finance director Tracy Blair/Purchasing Director Leo Bradshaw to find out for a fact just how much money the commission could afford for the building program based on the current funding to the rural debt fund. Austin explained that his motion would not cost the county any money and would not commit the county to anything. It would simply give the commission and the board a better idea of how much money would be available for the building program.

The motion failed by a 5-3 vote. Only commissioners Earlena Maples, Shaver and Bob Franke voted for the motion. Commissioners Wayne Gardin, Harold Duff, Roy Bledsoe, David Meers and Nancy Marcus voted no. Commissioners Don Miller and Chris Park were absent.

The board, with commission approval, has already spent nearly a million dollars, at commission's request, to have the plans drawn up in order to get firm numbers on the building costs. Now it seems commissioners are not willing to take the another step. Different commissioners gave various reasons for not supporting Shavers request. Commissioners Meers and Marcus said they couldn't support the building program because they still don't know what the board is wanting to build. But what they did know is it has too many "bells and whistles." 

The law is very clear. The school board "has the power to purchase land subject to the laws of this state, to erect buildings for public school purposes." TCA 49-6-2006 (b)(1). The commission has the duty to fund the "purchase of school grounds, the erection and repair of school buildings and for equipping the same." TCA 49-2-101 (7)

It was painfully obvious at Monday's commission meeting that there are at least some commissioners who want to decide for the school board what and where the school board will build and if the board doesn't go along, there will be no funding for the building program.

So, after spending a year developing a building plan and after already spending nearly a million dollars, looks like the long awaited building program may die a political death.