Exploring options for funding capital projects for Bradley County Schools was the focus for the education and finance committees of the Bradley County Commission Monday.
Possible solutions included an increase in property tax next fiscal year, implementing a wheel tax or using revenue from payments in lieu of taxes for debt service.
A revenue chart provided by Trustee Mike Smith last week showed Wacker Polysilicon North America, Amazon and Whirpool PILOT revenue, as well as property tax revenue from Spring Creek Development, will be collected in 2014. The expected revenue from 2014 payments would allocate $1 million for debt service based on the current percentages used.
A motion by finance committee member Jeff Morelock was made to look in depth at what potential borrowing power would result from this revenue. Morelock said the county would need to borrow about $38 million to include the portion for Cleveland City Schools. Whenever the county borrows money for capital projects for Bradley County Schools, a third of the amount borrowed must be given to Cleveland City Schools.
The motion also asked for additional information on revenue if property tax was increased or if a wheel tax was implemented. Morelock’s motion also asked for a plan to fund the schools’ needs as well as purchasing the industrial park land and funding the veterans’ nursing home request.
“I’d like to see a comprehensive plan rather than putting these things as separate items,” Morelock said. “If we do these things, some of them, it’s going to require a tax increase. I don’t see any possible way around it.”
Education Committee Chairman Jeff Yarber and committee member J. Adam Lowe agreed a plan that includes all the projects is needed.
Finance committee member Ed Elkins said this money would not be available for the budget until 2015.
Finance Chairman Connie Wilson said choosing the property tax route would require a 14-cent increase to fund just the schools’ needs.
Education Chairman Jeff Yarber said the committees should also consider the increase in state and federal funding that will come from increased growth in the school system. Lowe said he would like to see the school look at putting more money in the school system’s budget each year for capital projects.
Morelock suggested the Bradley County Board of Education hold two public forums to get community input on the capital needs to aid the joint committee in its decision. No action was taken on this suggestion.
The projects for which the school system is requesting funds includes land for a new middle school, construction of a new academic building at Lake Forest Middle School, an addition at Walker Valley High School and construction of a new elementary school in the Blue Springs community.