Maybe Next Year

Well, the much debated, much fought over and much needed Phase 1 building program is officially on the shelf. The question is, just how long will it be on the shelf.

After spending well over two million dollars for plans drawings, fire marshal reviews and so on, there's no money left to fund the plan. That's after a majority of commissioners voted to take more than a million dollars from the building fund to pay for school employee raises and such knowing it would eliminate the building program. So now what?

It's pretty simple. A property tax increase. Next year, in the spring, as commission begins the budget process the biggest question they will face will be whether to raise property taxes to fund the building program. No tax increase, no building program. So how much will the tax rate increase need to be? That depends.

If current interest rates and construction costs hold where they are now, it would take at a bare minimum a fifteen cent increase to fund the current Phase 1 plan and that would be tight.

What hasn't been mentioned in a long time is that's there's actually a Phase 2 to the building program. Phase 2 calls for a new middle school on the upper end of the county to alleviate over crowding at Highland Park, Eatons and North Middle. The idea was that the board would use the same building plan on the upper end as the new Loudon Middle School. That would save the costs of any additional plans and drawings. While the North end schools don't currently face the same overcrowding and structural problems as Loudon and Greenback, it's coming.

For another ten cent increase in the tax rate, or a total of a twenty-five cent increase all together, both Phase 1 & 2 could be completed. The completion of both Phase 1 & 2 will address county school issues for the foreseeable future. There are variables in this idea such acquiring suitable land on the north end of the county for a building site. Maybe we could swap the 321 land for a more suitable site.

Let me make this crystal clear. As a school board member and a tax payer, I am not advocating for any tax increase. I'm just stating the facts as they are. It will ultimately be up to six commissioners to make that decision.