@:Cleveland Board of Education members in called session Tuesday officially placed their stamp of approval — and endorsement — on the proposed $32 wheel tax scheduled to face Bradley County voters on the August ballot.
As written by the Bradley County Commission which has approved a resolution placing the referendum on the communitywide ballot, the wheel tax — if favored by voters — would support education projects for both the Cleveland City and Bradley County school systems.
On Tuesday, city school board members voted unanimously to support the wheel tax and urged other government leaders to consider similar action. Board members pointed to the need for such revenue. The tax dollars, which would be assessed when a vehicle is registered in Bradley County, would go toward school-related construction projects.
The board pointed to the city’s ongoing, and future, growth as being the reason for planned construction projects.
City board members specified if a wheel tax is not approved, Bradley County residents could face property tax increases in the future in order to pay for area education needs.
Board member Murl Dirksen said the issue is not politically based because it involves community education and the needs of area children. He called it a “moral issue.” Dirksen also compared the annual payment of $32 for a wheel tax comparable to contributing to church mission projects to build new schools in other parts of the world. In both cases children are in need, he explained.
Dawn Robinson, a board member whose tenure also includes having served as chairman, said it was a “gutsy thing” for the County Commission to approve the resolution which places the wheel tax question on the ballot. Although some county commissioners have spokenly openly in public meetings in support of the wheel tax, the governing body has not thrown its official support by vote to the levy. Members have taken the stance that voters should decide on the fate of a proposed wheel tax.
The types of projects that could be funded by a wheel tax, within the city school system, include a new elementary school for which the board is already considering potential locations. Future growth could also lead to the need for additional classrooms, even before the construction of a new facility. If building began now, a new school would not be ready for two years, board members pointed out.
Dr. Martin Ringstaff, city schools director, said he believes a wheel tax is the “best and brightest way” to reach the school system’s future objectives.
Although the Bradley County Board of Education has not officially endorsed the wheel tax, School System Director Johnny McDaniel and School Board Chairman Charlie Rose have favored it in public presentations.
Like the city, the county school system also is looking to potentially fund future construction through wheel tax revenue. The county’s projects include replacing Blue Springs Elementary School which was destroyed by tornadoes April 27, 2011, building an expansion onto Walker Valley High School and constructing an academic building at Lake Forest Middle School.
City school board members expressed an interest in working in conjunction with their county school counterparts to support the wheel tax.