School Officials Discuss Need For Tax Increase To Fund Costly New And Expanded County Schools

Thursday, February 27, 2014 - by Hollie Webb
School Board members discuss needed for new school buildings and additions
School Board members discuss needed for new school buildings and additions
- photo by Hollie Webb

A tax increase to support the construction of new schools and the upkeep of current schools was discussed during a Hamilton County School Board meeting Thursday afternoon.

Though nothing has been planned yet, several board members and parents agreed that the increase would be necessary in the future. The board recently put together a priority facilities list for the first time since 1999. The list contains six schools that officials said are in great need of either renovations or a new building because of both growth and age.

For all six projects to be completed, the estimated total cost would be $140 million. Some of the projects were on the last priority facilities list, still not completed.

Board Chairman Mike Evatt said, "We can consolidate a lot of schools, but that's not going to take care of the growth in the eastern part of the county."

Board member George Ricks Sr. said, "The reality is that we do have schools all over this county that do have wide discrepancies." When discussing building new schools, he asked, "Why add to that inventory if we can't take care of what we have already?"

He also said, "There is an issue of equity." He told the board that working to improve some schools but not others would be asking parts of the community to pay for something they are not getting.

However, he told the Board not to be afraid of asking people to vote for a tax increase. He said the County Commission would most likely not support it and that parents who wanted it would have to vote for people who thought the same way.

Superintendent Rick Smith said there has not been any increase in the school budget other than normal growth since 2006.

The list of priority facilities starts with a project to combine Ganns Middle Valley Elementary and Falling Water Elementary, two schools in buildings that are respectively 77 and 102 years old. The new school would be at the current site of Ganns, and the cost would total $26 million.

Next on the list is Wolftever Elementary, which needs expansion work due to the population growth in the eastern part of Hamilton County. This cost would be approximately $5 million.

Third is replacing the building for the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts. Currently, the school is an award winning and nationally recognized K-8 magnet school. Students must apply and are selected by lottery; the wait list is already at 1,283 students. If a new building were built, the school would be able to expand to K-12. The approximate cost is $45 million.

However, board member Rhonda Thurman suggested, instead of spending $45 million on a new building, moving CSLA to the Tyner High School and Middle School facility and rezoning students that attend Tyner.

Expanding Nolan Elementary at a cost of $5 million is the fourth priority, and the expansion of Sale Creek Middle/High is the fifth. Sale Creek has had a 28 percent enrollment increase since 2008, and currently the entire middle school is in portable classrooms. The work here would cost approximately $20 million.

Last on the list is East Hamilton Middle/High. For this project, the School Board wants to convert the current buildings into a high school and construct a new building for the middle school. This project would cost approximately $45 million.


Superintendent Rick Smith has the floor
Superintendent Rick Smith has the floor
- Photo2 by Hollie Webb

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: BALDEN, MORE MOUSSA  2000 SUNSET RD CHATTANOOGA, 37404  Age at Arrest: 45 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga PUBLIC INTOXICATION --- BEENE, JASON  3660 CRESTWICK CIRCLE GULF SHORES, 37421  Age at Arrest: 38 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga AGGRAVATED ASSAULT --- ... (click for more)

Latest County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ASHFORD, LARRY  3718 JUANDALE TRAIL CHATTANOOGA, 37406  Age at Arrest: 64 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga GAMBLING PROMOTION GAMBLING DEVICES --- BATTLE, FREDRICK LAMAR  HOMELESS CHATTANOOGA, 37407  Age at Arrest: 52 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga DOMESTIC CRIMINAL ... (click for more)

Welcome The Bike Lanes

In just the last week, I’ve driven from North Chattanooga to downtown using North Market numerous times.  I’ve timed it and it has added no extra time to my commute.  In fact, cutting North Market down to one lane slowed folks down and made me feel safer while driving, which is actually the point of the road project. On top of that, I saw an adorable family biking ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: We Want Our City Back

Late Saturday morning, there was a driving rain as I took my khakis to be hemmed by Bruce Baird, who owns a wonderful menswear store on Broad Street, and it was glaringly obvious that what the crazies among us have done with a looney bike-lane scheme is ridiculous. There are concrete barriers, reducing Broad Street to two lanes of traffic, which I believe will impede downtown businesses ... (click for more)

District Volleyball Tournaments Start Monday

Chattanooga area volleyball teams begin post-season play with district tournaments starting on Monday and Tuesday.  Silverdale will host the 5-A tournament which begins on Monday.   Marion County will host 6-A.  Sale Creek is the top seed and Lookout Valley is the second seed.  District 6-AA will be played at East Ridge.   Hixson begins the tournament ... (click for more)

Do The Tennessee Football Program's Problems Start At The Top?

Late last night former LSU and NFL star Booger McFarland was literally laughing at Tennessee during his post-game commentary on the SEC Network. I can understand that. Again "Botch" Jones took no responsibility for this third terrible agonizing loss during his post game "softball" interview with Vol play-by-play broadcaster "Blob" Kesling after once again blowing a two touchdown ... (click for more)