Report: Build one new school Study finds Loudon County, Lenoir City needs relatively small

March 3, 2007

Proponents of a new "adequate facilities tax" suggest that the Loudon County and Lenoir City schools are in danger of overcrowding, but a report presented to city and county officials this week predicts relatively small space needs.

"The projected shortage over the next five years is only 10 classrooms," said Blaise Burch, director of property development for the Knoxville-Knox County Public Building Authority, which helped prepare the $53,000 study with the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission.

PBA and MPC, working as the Partnership for Education Facilities Assessment, prepared the report and presented it Thursday to city and county officials. The school systems paid for it.

It found 84 percent of functional capacity is in use for the systems' 12 schools countywide.

The state authorized an "adequate facilities tax" in counties with a fast-growing population of school-age children.

The report recommends the construction of one new school in the county over the next five years.

A new school in Greenback is needed not because of population growth, however, but because of the condition of the existing school, Burch said.

Wing expansions at Fort Loudon Middle, Loudon Elementary and Highland Park schools would be sufficient to handle growth in those locations.

Factors affecting the low growth rate include the planned removal of about 600 out-of-county students from Loudon and Lenoir City schools over the next five years as well as the relatively low growth of new homes with school-age children.

"When the out-of-county students are removed, the growth is essentially flat," Burch said.

That confirms what some county commissioners and developers said last year when they opposed the $1-per-square-foot tax on new residential construction.

Tellico Village, for example, gets a lot of new homes, Burch said, "but it's mostly retirees with only 100 school-age children for some 2,800 homes."

County Mayor Doyle Arp said the limited improvements and additions recommended by the report - estimated to cost $47 million - won't be covered by the $500,000 to $1 million expected annually from the new tax.

"We're going to need some kind of tax increase," Arp said.

The report found Lenoir City schools in good shape in terms of condition and space, although Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire, who's also on the city school board, remains concerned about serving elementary school-age children, particularly around the new Town Creek development.