published Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Bradley County Schools look beyond wheel tax

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    Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Voter rejection of the proposed wheel tax to fund school projects left education officials looking for a plan B on Friday.

"I totally understand not wanting a tax," said Martin Ringstaff, city schools director.

He also thanked those who voted for the $32 tax.

"The growth of the city is not going away," he said. "Our next step is to meet as a school board, discuss our options and talk to the City Council.

"We have to wait and see what our [student] numbers will be at the start of this school year," Ringstaff said. "It is an issue. But it is one that says Cleveland is growing and is a good place to live."

The city school system gets one out of every three dollars raised by the county for public education, based on student population.

City school board members had discussed using their share of any wheel tax revenue toward a new elementary school. County board members said an addition at Walker Valley High School, a building at Lake Forest Middle and a new elementary school are needed.

"The public said no to a tax, not to public education," Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel said.

The referendum, he said Friday, was done by the County Commission and was not an idea county schools proposed.

After the vote, the roof at Lake Forest still leaks, Walker Valley still faces crowded conditions and a south county school still is needed, McDaniel said.

Because the county system had built Park View Elementary before the Blue Springs school was hit by the tornadoes of 2011, the county had room to take those displaced students, McDaniel said.

"Now we've gone back to being full again," he said.

What happens next is up to the County Commission, McDaniel said.

While the wheel tax was defeated decisively, voters did create some suspense. In the county school board's District 3 race, Nicholas Lillios got one more vote than competitor Ted Bryson, 801 to 800. There were three provisional ballots in that race.

Fran Green, county elections director, said Friday the Bradley County Election Commission will meet Monday at 5 p.m. to decide if those provisional votes will be counted. The voters did not have state-required identification. If they provide that identification by Monday at 4:30 p.m., their votes may be counted, she said.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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