No School For You

Students, parents and teachers in Loudon and Greenback who had hoped that the Phase I school building program might finally gain support were again disappointed Monday night. The majority of commissioners for a second time voted not to provide funding for the building program.

Third district commissioner, Bob Franke, had placed the motion to fund the building program on the agenda of Monday's meeting. Franke's motion received a  second commissioner Austin Shaver. Both Franke and Shaver have been the most vocal proponents supporting the building plan and were again the two commissioners along with fifth district commissioner, Harold Duff, who voted to fund the building program. 

Both Franke and Shaver again went into great detail to explain how the 38 million dollar building program could be paid for without raising property taxes. Apparently their arguments fell mostly on deaf ears. When the vote was taken, only Franke, Shaver and Duff voted to fund the building program. Commissioners Nancy Marcus, David Meers, Earlena Maples, Roy Bledsoe, Chris Park, Wayne Gardin and Don Miller voted not to fund the building program now but to wait till later.

The failure of the commission once again provide funding jeopardizes the entire building program. Everyone knows that interest rates can not remain where they are now. Each quarter percent increase in the interest rate will add approximately a million dollars to the cost of funding the building program.

As a member of the school board, I am completely at a loss to understand the reasoning of the commissioners who continue to delay the inevitable. But until this commission or a group of new commissioners decide to get serious about the building needs in Loudon County, I'm afraid things will remain the same.

School fund proposal nixed

Loudon commission won't let board seek $38M-$40M bond

Hugh G. Willett
LOUDON - Monday night's decision by the Loudon County Commission not to authorize a bond search to pay for the school building plan was met with dismay by school board members.

"I just can't believe it. Why can't they get their priorities straight?" asked school board member Lisa Russell.

Scott Newman also said he couldn't believe commissioners David Meers and Nancy Marcus, voted against the motion.

"They voted against the children in their own district," Newman said.

Board member Van Shaver said he was concerned the commission had "put politics before principles."

The motion for the commission to support the first phase of the building plan was made by Commissioner Bob Franke. The first phase would include a new school in Greenback, renovations to the Philadelphia School's cafeteria and a new middle school in Loudon.

With interest rates rising and the cost of materials sure to be impacted negatively by inflation, it makes sense to authorize the county to go out and seek a 30-year bond of $38 million to $40 million as soon as possible, Franke said.

He also said he would support a property tax increase if that's what it took to get the schools built.

Commissioner Austin Shaver said he was confident that interest rates would not get much lower and that it was necessary to fund the program even if it resulted in a property tax increase.

The motion ran into immediate opposition from other commissioners, including Don Miller, who said the county cannot afford to fund all of the first phase at one time.

"I've spent many hours with the finance department making projections," he said "I'm convinced we can't borrow $38 (million) to $40 million without a property tax increase."

Miller said he did not think that failing to act on the motion would necessarily delay the building program. The commission has been waiting to get bids from contractors before moving to authorize the funding, he said.

Shaver countered that waiting to get firm bids before funding would not produce the lowest bids. Contractors are not going to bid aggressively on a project that might not be funded, he said.

"I think we should wait until May and then find out how much we can borrow," said Commissioner Wayne Gardin.

The commission rejected Franke's motion 7-3 with Miller, Gardin, Chris Park, Roy Bledsoe, Earlena Maples, Marcus and Meers voting against. Franke, Shaver and Harold Duff voted for the motion.

Loudon County commissioners postpone funding school projects

6 News Anchor/Reporter

LOUDON (WATE) - Loudon County commissioners voted against approving funding to rebuild Greenback and help other schools Monday night.

"Our kids deserve this. I don't know why we're fighting this battle," said Terri Johnson, the angry grandmother of four Greenback students.

"Use the brains God gave you," she told commissioners. "Take care of this and quit dragging your feet. We're beginning to be a laughing stock."

Commissioner Bob Franke did ask for a vote in favor of borrowing up to $40 million to fund phase one of the schools building plan, which includes new schools for both Greenback and Fort Loudoun Middle and a new cafeteria for Philadelphia. 

"I think if we don't act now, come up with a number and actually say 'Here's what you've got to spend, make it work,' we're not going to get anywhere," Franke said. 

The problem for commissioners like Don Miller is where all that money will come from. 

"I just can't commit to $40 million tonight without knowing what the property tax increase is that goes with it," Miller said.

Commissioners voted seven to three against approving the money right now, saying they'll vote again in a few months after they see new construction drawings and new cost estimates.

"They talk out of both sides of their mouth. They say, 'Oh I'm for it, but I don't believe we should do it now.' There's folks that have been hearing that for 30 years or longer. I mean, what is it going to take?" Johnson said.

Greenback Principal Joey Breedlove also came away from Monday night's meeting disappointed. 

"It's deflating and it's discouraging. Our children deserve better and I hope that at some point they'll see that," he said. 

Breedlove is worried the bidding process for the school building projects won't be as successful if contractors aren't certain the money will be there.