“We believe the best course of action is for the school boards to partner up and go to the County Commission to seek funding for the projects already listed on both sides of the aisle,” said Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools. “How the Bradley County Commission funds that is up to them. They do not have many options — property tax seems to be the one discussed.”
He added, “Those who did not vote for the wheel tax should assume that as their city and county continue to grow, something is going to happen. ... Just traveling down Keith Street you realize there are more people in the city than there have been in recent years.”
Ringstaff said the wheel tax was a viable, reasonable option. The wheel tax would have implemented a $32 tax per registered vehicle in Bradley County. A $16 tax would have been applied to all registered two-wheeled vehicles. With only about 25 percent of voters in favor, the board is in need of a new plan of attack. Dawn Robinson, board member, asked what the schools were expected to do with increasing student population.
“There is the belief that we [school system] need to tighten our belts, but nobody seems to be able to answer the question, ‘What are we going to do with additional students?’” Robinson said. “I’ve said this before, but we cannot shut our doors and tell students they cannot come in because our school is full. ... It may be a couple of us with members of the county school board saying to the Commission, ‘The wheel tax failed. We need to do something now.’”
Murl Dirksen, board member, said the school board is not trying to scare the public.
“If you are going to educate kids, then something has to give,” Dirksen said. “What are our options?”
Ringstaff said the school board has not asked for money in years. According to the director, the recent request was made because, “You can’t tighten a belt that is already pulled tight.”
“Then we need to go to City Council after we approach the County Commission,” Robinson said. “We need to say, ‘We have made our plea to them, and now we are making our plea to you. We need to know what can be done.’”
According to Robinson, cuts cannot be made to sports and fine arts.
“I don’t think people understand we don’t give money to sports,” Robinson said. “Those people out there raise money through tickets and fundraisers. The same can be said for the band. If we cut athletics and fine arts then how are we educating the whole student?”
The board stands unanimous on the decision to protect the fine arts. Ringstaff said more than 80 percent of the city school system budget is used to finance personnel. The remaining money is split between school needs, transportation and additional costs. The school budget can be found at the city schools website, clevelandschools.org, under the “Board” tab.
According to a board member, transportation provided by the school is not required. Dropping bus routes would mean an availability of more than $1 million in the budget. The increase in student population has led to eight buses driving double runs. The board said it is looking at all options.
“We don’t offer a lot of special services to make us look great,” Ringstaff said. “Most of the services we offer are mandated. We are bare minimum on a lot of things.”
In additional news, Brian Templeton, architect, was told by the Betsy Vines Theater contractor renovations will be complete by the Oct. 1 deadline. These renovations have included new carpets, removing asbestos, new seating and fresh paint, among other changes.
“The contractor has about 30 days to be complete. There is still a lot of work to be done. ... The good thing is the seat delivery has been moved up and should be on-site in about two weeks,” Templeton said. “I think the work can be done. ... A lot of the work is finish work. All of that stuff takes time, so there is going to be a really intense two-week period.”
Templeton said he will know by mid-September whether or not the contractors will have the work complete. He also showed the plans for new cabinets to be placed in a dressing room. The board approved spending $2,085.42 on the two new cabinets. The money will be taken out of $10,000 contingency fund built into the contract.
Paul Ramsey also requested approval of a building at Raider Field to be built by the Quarterback Club. The building will sit on the south end of the field. The total cost of the project will be more than $1,000. The entire amount is covered by donations.
Ringstaff asked Ramsey to make sure the building meets all ADA standards and the board approved the construction. The building will be used to sell shirts, hats and other Raider items.