Mull: PIE funds are delayed, not killed

Commission chair fielding questions

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 7/11/19

Despite funding for the PIE Center being pulled from Bradley County’s proposed 2019-20 budget, plans to develop the project are continuing.

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Mull: PIE funds are delayed, not killed

Commission chair fielding questions

Posted

Despite funding for the PIE Center being pulled from Bradley County’s proposed 2019-20 budget, plans to develop the project are continuing.

Funding for the Partnerships in Industry & Education Center, or PIE Center, had been included as part of a proposed property tax increase the Bradley County Commission will be voting on next Monday. However, earlier this week, the County Commission’s Finance Committee voted to cut 5.602 cents from debt service in the 2019-20 budget earmarked for the PIE Center.

One penny of the tax rate brings in approximately $232,000.

According to County Commission Chairman Johnny Mull — following the recommendation to pull the 5.602 cents from the proposed tax increase — he has had a few calls from “disappointed people” asking why the PIE Center is “not happening.”

However, that is not the case. Mull said the PIE Center is not included in the 2019-20 budget, but a bond issue is planned for next fall. He said the change doesn’t affect the timelines for work on the PIE Center to proceed.

Mull said there is a process leading up to bidding of the PIE Center project and Bradley County Schools has agreed to use its money to get the process started. The school system has $1.3 million in its fund balance, plus another $1 million from Gov. Bill Lee’s budget to begin the work.

“They can start all of that with the $2.3 million and even begin getting those initial clients in,” Mull said, adding when the bond issue is done in the fall “is when (the school system) would need that funding.”

Mull emphasized that the PIE Center has nothing to do with this year’s budget or the proposed tax increase.

The Finance Committee discussed PIE Center funding when Commissioner Erica Davis said she would like to revisit the issue; specifically, that the mayor’s budget proposal said the PIE Center could be funded without a tax increase. She asked the projected annual bond payment for the project.

County Mayor D. Gary Davis said approximately $1.1 million is the debt service amount for the annual payment, with an anticipated 3.3% interest rate. He said if commissioners approve the bond in the 2020-21 budget year, the first bond payment will be due in the 2021-22 budget year.

“It’s tight, but it works,” Mayor Davis said of the timeline to have bond funds available to pay for the PIE Center project.

Finance Committee Chairman Milan Blake asked for an estimate of how much Bradley County will borrow to fund the PIE Center. Mayor Davis said the county will be borrowing $16.6 million.

Blake asked the mayor to review the timeline for the proposed bond. Mayor Davis estimated “moving dirt” will start in January 2020, and the school system has $2.3 million to be used from then until June 30, 2020. After that would come the bond issue to fund the project, and in the 2021-22 budget there will be $1.1 million in debt service to make the first bond payment the following year.

Mayor Davis said 2021-22 is when money has to be moved into debt service.

According to previous news articles published in the Cleveland Daily Banner, last year Bradley County Schools began the process of purchasing the old American Uniform building to turn it into a place for students to develop job skills.

Once renovated, the PIE Center will house a variety of career and technical education programs and Bradley County’s alternative school, GOAL Academy. The county district is also leasing space to companies willing to work with students.

Several companies and organizations planning to partner with the PIE Center participated in an open house last month to tell visitors about what they do and how they plan to help students. They included Chattanooga Center for Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics, Cleveland State Community College, Massey Electric, McKee Foods, Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Athens, United Way of the Ocoee Region and Wright Brothers Construction Company.

Another drop-in open house is scheduled for today, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at the PIE Center building, the former American Uniform facility located at 2181 Parker St. N.E. The event is free and open to the public.


Inset Text:

According to County Commission Chairman Johnny Mull — following the recommendation to pull the 5.602 cents from the proposed tax increase — he has had a few calls from “disappointed people” asking why the PIE Center is “not happening.”

However, that is not the case. Mull said the PIE Center is not included in the 2019-20 budget, but a bond issue is planned for next fall. He said the change doesn’t affect the timelines for work on the PIE Center to proceed.


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