Loudon County Board Of Education:
We Need 100 Million +

Loudon school budget expected to draw fight By HUGH G. WILLETT, knoxnews.com
May 15, 2007

The Loudon County school board is heading into a budget battle with County Commission with capital requests in excess of $100 million during the next decade.

"It's going to be too large," school board member Fred Walker said. "They're going to send this back to us."

Three commissioners and three school board members plan to meet today to discuss capital requests, which include two new middle schools, a new school in Greenback from pre-kindergarten through high school and several other projects.

"The amount they are asking for - over $100 million - is_really just out there," said Commissioner Don Miller, pointing out that the funding would equate to a $1 billion capital plan in Knox County, which is 10 times larger than Loudon.

"It's going to take us months to resolve the differences between the commission and the school board," Miller said.

The commission plans to review the budget May 30 and hold a public hearing June 25.

A study paid for by the commission and prepared by the Knoxville-Knox County Public Building Authority recommended about $48 million in school improvements.

"I won't vote for more than $60 million," County Commissioner Wayne Gardin said. "The money has to come from somewhere."

Director of Schools Edward Headlee acknowledged the schools' proposal is ambitious. "There's no way the commission can raise that much money," he said.

But Headlee said the recommendations reflect school administrators' best estimate of what's needed to maintain the standard of education in the county. He said elementary school work probably is the highest priority, and Loudon Elementary PTO President Wendy Baustian said the PTO will prepare a petition for County Commission requesting improvements as soon as possible.

"We have been terribly underfunded for years," she said. "At Loudon Elementary we are at 111 percent of capacity right now."

Gardin said it would take a $50 wheel tax to raise $100 million or more. "If we did that, people would start moving out of this county."