The Bradley County Commission turned down a proposal Monday that would have funded renovations at Lake Forest Middle School with a property tax increase of 7.72 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
The motion failed 11-3 with Commissioners Jeff Morelock, Connie Wilson and Robert Rominger voting in favor.
A property tax increase had been presented as the fastest way to get the project started.
“This may not be the best way to get this done, but no one else has put forward any other definite plan,” Morelock said. “Using growth money (in a future year) would be taking away money from other departments. ... If you are opposed to this resolution, then I ask you to put forward another proposal.”
Wilson said issues at Lake Forest were discussed as a concern even before an official request two years ago for funds to renovate the school.
Many commissioners whose districts are partially or entirely within the city boundaries said the people they represent had already received a tax increase. County residents have also contacted their commissioners, saying they would not be in favor of a tax increase.
“My voters that have been coming to me — I only had one that said they were in support of it. It just seems like too much at one time,” said 1st District Commissioner Terry Caywood.
Fourth District Commissioner J. Adam Lowe said the Commission should consider taking funding from other areas that are not state required in order to fund the project.
“Commissioners are now asking for a 7 cent tax increase because we are unwilling to stop funding things of lower priority in order to fund the things that are of statutory priority,” Lowe said.
Those whose property values have gone up even thought the majority of values went down will be paying more property tax because of the higher certified tax rate. Lowe said the Commission should consider the proposal of the ad hoc committee instead. The recommendation proposes using future funding for the project and beginning construction in 2016. The recommendation was never voted on by the full Commission.
Fourth District Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones said based on projected revenues the county would be able to fund the project in 2016.
“I hate to do a tax increase to fund a school when 2016 is right around the corner ... It’s just three more years,” Peak-Jones said.
Seventh District Commissioner Bill Winters said he wanted to see the Commission commit to the project, and work out the funding issues at a later date.
“I’m not going to be able to vote for this one today,” Winters said.
Winters, who has a son who works at Lake Forest, said he is in support of the school and knows there are issues with leaking ceilings and rooms.
“We need to move forward with this project, but I cannot support a tax increase,” Winters said.
Delaying a decision also has a cost.
“Each year that we don’t built it its going to cost $2 million a year in maintenance. That $2 million is going down the drain,” Rominger, commissioner for the 6th District where Lake Forest is located, said.
First District Commissioner Ed Elkins said if the school system would commit the funding currently going to maintenance on the facilities, it would help fund the project sooner.
Winters said continual issues with ceilings and rooms will have to be addressed at some point.
Other options on funding the project are expected to be discussed at the next work session.
The tax increase would have funded a new academic building at Lake Forest to replace the pod-style layout and provide renovations to buildings being retained. The project was first brought to the Commission as a request for renovations. After much consideration, the Commission decided it would be better to provide more of a solution to the reoccurring issues at the school.
A formal request was made by the Bradley County Board of Education more than two years ago.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the commission passed the following motions:
- To rezone an agricultural (FAR) lot on Dalton Pike to General Commercial.
- To rezone a rural residential lot on Dalton Pike to General Commercial.
- To name a fire vehicle after the late Roy Smith. Smith was a county commissioner and fire board chairman. Commissioner Mel Griffith said Smith contributed a lot to the fire department.