The major project discussed is needed improvements at Lake Forest Middle School. Originally, the board only requested funds to work on fixing moisture and other problems. However, after some discussion of the issues, finance committee chairperson Connie Wilson requested information on what it would take to solve all of the problems with the school. Several of the commissioners present said simply improving the existing pod classrooms will not solve all of the problems at the middle school.
One solution would be to build a new building to replace the pod classrooms currently used, and improving the library, fine arts, gymnasium, cafeteria and auditorium buildings. This project would cost more than $12 million, according to information gathered by director of schools Johnny McDaniel. This solution has not yet been presented to the Bradley County Board of Education, yet.
Troy Weathers, school board chairman, said the board would like to build the new replacement building at Lake Forest but did not request this because board members were unsure of what the county could afford. Weathers also said the board would like to build 16 classrooms at WVHS instead of the proposed eight because this would provide space for growth.
Lynn Burns, the financial director for the county, said the county had reached its limit on the ability to borrow. Wilson said a raise in property taxes or a wheel tax could be instituted to raise the needed funds. According to Wilson, the project would require an approximate 11- to 12-cent property tax increase if that option was used. She also said a raise in property taxes can only be passed during budget time.
Money the school system would be receiving from property taxes paid by Wacker Chemie AG and Amazon.com should be taken into consideration before an increase is made, committee member Ed Elkins said.
The finance committee discussed what property taxes Amazon would pay as part of a tax incentive the county had given the company. There was some confusion as to what the payment in lieu of taxes agreements with Wacker Chemie and Amazon and Whirlpool (for its new location) were, and how much revenue these would create. Wilson said she wanted to review these before any decisions were made. Elkins agreed. County commissioners present who are not committee members also pointed out that if there was going to be a tax increase something should be worked in to go toward reducing debt.
In addition to information about money from corporate property taxes, the finance committee also wanted additional figures for the projects and to review the debt service schedule before moving forward.
The board’s complete list of projects included work at Lake Forest, improvements to Walker Valley High School and to look at land for a middle school and two elementary schools.
- Also during the meeting, the finance committee approved budget amendment requests for the Fire and Rescue and Ambulance budgets to accept donations that had been given. The committee also approved an amendment request from the Bradley County EMA to pay fees to the city of Chattanooga for the 800 Mhz TVRS system. These annual fees are covered through fees paid by the emergency departments that use the system.