published Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Cleveland school board makes appeal for wheel tax

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    Some schools in both the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems are using their marquee signs to ask motorists to vote "yes'' this summer for a $32 wheel tax.
    Photo by Randall Higgins.
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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- City schools are braced for another jump in enrollment numbers when school begins about a month from now.

The Cleveland school board will get an update on what to expect today during a planning retreat and called board meeting.

"We do expect more than we left with," Dr. Martin Ringstaff, city schools director, said Monday, during the board's regular monthly meeting.

Citing the growing need for more space in both city and county schools, city board members made an appeal for a yes vote on the wheel tax when early voting begins Friday.

"This tax is specifically for large education capital projects that cannot be addressed with the sales tax," said Peggy Pesterfield, reading her written statement.

"The money raised will only be used to repay educational debt. This tax cannot be raised or diverted without the approval of 10 (county) commissioners in two separate votes. If the electorate disagrees with the result, they can demand a referendum with approximately 2,100 signatures," Pesterfield said.

Opponents have said the tax would only reward local government mismanagement problems.

"I don't understand the perception that we would be teaching public officials a lesson by voting no," said Dawn Robinson.

She and other city board members said only the children would be punished.

Pesterfield said the tax would make possible an additional city elementary school, expand and improve the county system's Lake Forest Middle and Walker Valley High schools and replace tornado-destroyed Blue Springs Elementary.

"The bottom line is we've grown. We need more room," said Steve Morgan. "Ask anyone who opposes it if we need to stop industry."

In a letter to editors recently, some Republican leaders said while they're not opposed to education, they oppose the wheel tax because it would enable the county to borrow more money.

Contact Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfreepress.com or 423-314-1029

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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