County schools to pay $1.4M over 30 months
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Dec 06, 2012 | 1196 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Bradley County Board of Education unanimously approved moving forward with a payment plan to the city of Cleveland for $1.422 million awarded to the school system from the 2009-10 half-cent sales tax increase revenue.

Revenue from the increase was used toward building the Bradley Central High School Fine Arts Building.

The board met during a special called session Wednesday. Attorney Jimmy Logan, who has represented Bradley County in the sales tax dispute, presented a sample resolution in line with the resolution approved by the Bradley County Commission on Monday.

Vice chair Vicki Beaty said although chairman Charlie Rose was unable to attend the meeting, he had expressed his support of the resolution.

The school board is requesting the city allow it to pay the amount back over 30 months, starting July 15, 2013.

Payments would need to be about $50,000 a month, according to Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel.

Where the money will come from to make the payments will be determined at a later date.

“What it would mean is there will not be money for a salary increase for the next two years, and there will not be money for us to put in our capital outlay projects,” McDaniel said. “We would look at what would be least disruptive to instructional practices first in our recommendations to the board.”

The additional portion the county owes to the city based on the final ruling is the amount that has been held by the Bradley County Trustee’s Office.

“Our hope is that the city of Cleveland will accept an initiation of that payment ... and they will allow us to commence that after the budget year commences for 2013-14,” Logan said. “We sincerely hope they accept this.”

McDaniel had worked with the attorney before the meeting.

“I believe everyone in our community believes it is time to put this behind us as an issue,” Logan said.

Board member Nicholas Lillios asked if the Commission had offered any additional funding to help pay the amount. Logan said it had not.

Board member Troy Weathers said it seems inevitable the board will have to request additional funding to make the payments.

“If we do that and they increase our budget, then they are going to have to increase the city school system’s budget and they get to keep their money,” Weathers said. “Now, I’m not against the city school system but ... now they are going to get a double bang for their buck.”

Of funding the county designates for education, the city school system receives 33.3 percent, according to Logan.

Weathers said there is no guarantee the Commission will grant additional funding. The Bradley County Schools system is funded below the state average. Weathers said BCS is one of the lowest-funded school systems in the state.

Lillios said the board should consider paying the full amount from capital projects funding to get it out of the way. Paying the full amount at this time would require the school system to cut nearly all projects for this year, included needed roofing and heating and air unit replacement.

“At the time the judgment came down, the board had already passed the budget, so you would have to do an amendment,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said many of these projects have been presented to the Commission as needs in the past. Some of the projects have been discussed since 2009.

McDaniel said the Education Jobs Bill funding had given the system a chance to save some money to put toward capital projects.

“I would not be in favor of taking any money out of capital outlay,” board member Christy Critchfield said.

Instead, she suggested moving money from the fund balance.

Weathers and McDaniel said paying the amount over time would be easier for the school system to handle.