published Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Scales wants county to buy David Brainerd site

by Kelli Gauthier
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    Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press The former David Brainerd Christian School is located in the 7500 block of Igou Gap Road. The Hamilton County school system would like the county to but it.

Hamilton County Schools officials have an idea how county commissioners should spend part of the $6 million in payment-in-lieu-of-taxes money, which the two groups have battled over for control.

Commissioners should buy the former David Brainerd School on Igou Gap Road, which would alleviate crowding at nearby East Brainerd Elementary School, Superintendent Jim Scales said Thursday.

“If the county is going to keep the $6 million, then the county needs to buy the David Brainerd property. We need to ask them to do that,” Scales said.

Payment in lieu of taxes agreements, known as PILOTs, often are given to new businesses such as Volkswagen to lure them to the area. Under the agreements, businesses don’t have to pay full property taxes for a certain number of years, but they must pay the share of property tax that goes to schools.

The school district has a contract with CapitalMark Bank to buy the David Brainerd site for $3.4 million, board member Mike Evatt said. If the commission would use PILOT money or other funds to buy the property, the school board wouldn’t have to dip into its fund balance of $12.9 million [as of June 2009].

“The David Brainerd site makes sense,” Evatt said. “I walked through the other day, and it would meet our needs in the interim.”

Several grades could move to David Brainerd next year, and eventually a new school could be built there, officials said.

David Brainerd was a private Christian school that opened in 2004 and closed in 2009.

Commissioner Joe Graham said he’s interested in addressing overcrowding at East Brainerd Elementary but hadn’t yet “done his homework” on the David Brainerd site.

The first chunk of PILOT money under commission control is about $800,000, he said, not enough to pay for the David Brainerd site outright.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry, who represents East Brainerd Elementary’s district, declined to comment, saying he wanted the entire commission to discuss the issue first.

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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