"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.