Passing Rubber
Round 5

Sadly but not surprisingly, the school board once again voted to spend the money to rubberize the track at LHS. Bill Marcus and Ric Best were absent. It passed by one vote, 6-2. This is the fifth vote taken on the rubber track.
This time the board is asking to take the money from surplus in the current budget. $32,000.00 will be taken from the teacher salary line and $17,000.00 from the natural gas utility line. No cuts were made to cover the expenditures.
Just to make the point, I asked our finance manager what would happen to those surpluses in those two line items if we didn't spend them on the track and of course his answer was that it would just roll into our reserves.
So essentially,  taking the $52,000.00 from the surplus is the exact same as taking it from our reserves.

The matter will have it's sixth and final vote at tonight's commission special called meeting just to vote on the rubber track. It will be interesting to see how commission will vote this time. The last time commission voted it down by a 6-4 vote with only commissioners David Meers, Brian Jenkins, Harold Duff and Sharon Yarbrough voting to spend the extra $52,000.00. Even though Meers voted for it in the last meeting, he said he wouldn't do it again.

We'll see how it goes tonight.

Loudon high school track upgrade sparks debate

Commissioners must vote today on transfer of funds

By Hugh G. Willett
A grant request meant to build a track at Loudon County High School to boost the health of children at risk for diabetes has turned into a controversy over whether to pay for an upgraded facility suitable for running events.

Under a proposal first presented to the county school board in January, a walking/running track was to be built at no cost to the county and paid for by a $250,000 state Department of Health grant requested by the Loudon County Schools' Office of Coordinated School Health.

"I was told repeatedly that this track would not cost the county one penny," said school board member Van Shaver.

The grant proposal stressed the needs of Loudon County's overweight children, particularly the rapidly growing Hispanic population, which the proposal said "is at greater risk for diabetes than some other groups."

The proposal also explained that the financially strapped county "cannot afford to expand and improve our physical education curriculum and programs."

A yet-to-be funded school-building program was cited as one of the reasons the county cannot invest in physical education.

"It is difficult for (students) to understand the importance of physical education/physical activity when students are having classes in closets and there is no heat in the classrooms during winter," the proposal continued.

In April, Wayne Honeycutt, director of county schools, requested an additional $57,000 so that the track could be rubberized to make it safer for use as a running track. Loudon High School Principal Sherry Parrish told the board that other schools would not attend track meets at Loudon if the track was not rubberized.

"That was the first we heard about the track being used for track meets," Shaver said.

Earlier this month, Honeycutt told the Loudon County Commission that the rising price of oil had increased the cost of the track. He also said that the project must be completed by June 30 or the county may lose the grant.

County Commission voted 6-4 to deny a request by the school system to transfer $57,000 from the Adequate Facilities Tax fund to pay for upgrades to the track. The tax was authorized to fund improvements to school infrastructure in fast-growing counties.

Commissioners Don Miller, Bob Franke, Earlena Maples, Roy Bledsoe, Steve Harrelson and Austin Shaver said they did not feel it was appropriate to fund the track upgrades out of the AFT fund.

Although he voted against the funds transfer, Harrelson pointed out, "We're still getting a $300,000 track for $50,000."

Commissioners Brian Jenkins, Sharon Yarbrough, Harold Duff and David Meers voted to transfer the money to pay for the upgrades.

On Thursday, the school board approved as an alternative the transfer of $52,000 from the school operating budget to rubberize the track. Of the amount, $35,000 will be transferred from the teachers salary fund and $17,000 from the natural gas fund.

The County Commission must vote today to approve the transfers.