The resolution urges opposition to a wheel tax proposal by the Bradley County Commission, in the August election, which would raise revenue for city and county schools.
Both school groups emphasized they do not oppose the right to support, or oppose, the proposal. They oppose incorrect information attributed to party representatives in the resolution.
Bradley County School Board Chairman Charlie Rose, with support from McDaniel and other board members, provided the Cleveland Daily Banner with a letter of concern about the GOP resolution. He, like the Cleveland school system before him, said GOP Chairman David Smith and Vice Chair Debbie Williams are incorrect on several claims.
The full county school system letter is published as a “Letter to the Editor” on page 22 of today’s edition.
Rose’s letter points to what he calls are errors in the GOP statement, and are the same as those listed in the city school board letter. The preparers of the two documents claim they had not spoken since the GOP action.
In Rose’s letter, received by the Banner late last week, he quickly goes to the resolution quote, “WHEREAS, the wheel tax is being falsely marketed to the citizens of Bradley County as necessary for the functioning of local schools.”
“This is not accurate,” the 7th District board member said. “We have money in our budget to run our school system. While Bradley County Schools is funded conservatively, we subsist with the funds provided by the County Commission to meet the diverse needs of our students. The funds from the wheel tax will not go toward our annual budgetary needs, but rather for capital outlay projects that fall outside the scope of our operational budget.”
McDaniel, the director of schools, emphasized the county school system has three priority needs at this time.
At the top of the list is replacement of Blue Springs Elementary School which was destroyed in the April 2011 tornadoes; renovations and improvements for Lake Forest Middle School; and classroom expansion at Walker Valley High School.
McDaniel added that all schools, county and city, have a myriad of needs.
“We lost perhaps 200 students to the city this year (due to the devastation of the tornadoes), but we still increased 100 students,” he said.
Rose’s letter also pointed out the GOP resolution reads, “WHEREAS, the wheel tax will not be designated to schools each year, but only the first year.”
“Again, this statement is misleading,” Rose said. “The wheel tax revenue may only be spent on two items. First, it is to provide a basis by which the county can borrow funds for future education capital outlay projects. We have identified these needs in the referendum itself.”
He continued, “After these obligations have been fulfilled, the annual funds provided by the wheel tax will be used to pay down existing debt related to educational capital outlay. As a result, monies collected each year will go to service this debt.”
County educators, like city administrators and board members earlier, criticized a statement credited to Williams which said, “We went through this debate in 2009 with the sales tax increase. In reality, only one year of the sales tax increase went toward educational projects. The wheel tax is being sold in much the same way. It will only be used to borrow $32 million the first year. Schools will not see additional funds after that first year.”
“Again, this is incorrect,” Rose said. “The sales tax, by statute, requires a portion to go to education every single year. This revenue is added to each school system’s annual budget to help pay for salaries, technology, heat and air, and a host of other things. We will continue to receive sales tax revenue each year as directed by law.”
He added, “The wheel tax revenue will be used each year to pay down the debt service incurred by the proposed projects (mentioned above), until the bonds are paid in full.”
Rose and McDaniel encouraged local residents to go to the Bradley County Schools website and review information on the wheel tax. They asked voters to compare this information with the Bradley County Commission Resolution 2012-24.