published Monday, January 9th, 2012

Bradley County Commission reviews wheel tax proposal

By Paul Leach/Correspondent
  • photo
    Bradley County Commissioner Ed Elkins, chairman of the redistricting committee

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Should Bradley County have a wheel tax?

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Bradley County Commission today will review a proposed $32 wheel tax intended to fund major education projects.

Commissioners repeatedly have said they do not plan to enact a wheel tax -- assessed each time a vehicle is registered in the county -- through a commission vote. Instead, the current proposal calls for voters to make that decision through a referendum on the August 2012 election ballot.

"We're not saying by this commission that we support or don't support a wheel tax by sending it to referendum," said Commissioner Jeff Yarber in a meeting last week. "We're saying on this commission we'll give the school board the platform that they need to show they need the wheel tax money."

The wheel tax proposal, a joint effort of the Bradley County Education and Finance Committees, was presented as a way to meet $25.5 million in county school capital funding requests. School officials have listed renovations for Lake Forest Middle School, an eight-room pod for Walker Valley High School, a new elementary school in southern Bradley County and land for a new middle school as priority needs.

Commissioner Ed Elkins recommended that the commission study how any possible city annexation in northern Bradley County might affect Walker Valley High School's student population. Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel previously advised commissioners that the new classroom pod was needed to alleviate overcrowding at the school.

Cleveland City Schools -- which receives $1 out of every $3 the county raises for county schools, based on student populations -- stands to gain $12 million if county schools receive full funding. The money would be used to build a new elementary school in the Hardwick Farms area near North Lee Highway, according to Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of city schools.

The current proposal allocates wheel tax revenues to an education subcategory of the county's debt service, instead of directly funding the general or education budgets.

Yarber, who is chairman of the Education Committee, has said this is a transparent way to ensure the money is spent on the schools.

The Bradley County Commission meets at noon at the county courthouse.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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