CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland school board members voted unanimously Tuesday to support the proposed countywide $32 wheel tax, set to be on the August ballot.
Board members urged other government leaders to do the same, saying voter approval of the tax -- to be assessed each time a vehicle is registered in Bradley County -- is a vital part of building money for school building needs, which only will increase as more jobs come to town.
Otherwise, they said, city and county residents may face a property tax to meet education needs.
"Anytime we are providing for the children of our community, that's not a political issue, it's a moral issue," board member Murl Dirksen said.
Paying $32 a year is equivalent to contributing to church mission projects to build schools elsewhere in the world, he said.
"We've got kids here that need help," Dirksen said.
Board member Dawn Robinson had positive statements for the Bradley County Commission, which approved a resolution calling for the tax referendum.
"It's a gutsy thing to do," she said.
The city board wants to build a new elementary school, and board members noted that growth now means more classrooms this fall, even though a new school would not be ready for nearly two years if begun now.
"We do believe this is the best and brightest way to get to our goals," said Martin Ringstaff, city schools director.
The Bradley County Schools system has proposals for an expansion at Walker Valley High School, an academic building at Lake Forest Middle School and a replacement for tornado-destroyed Blue Springs Elementary School.
City school board members discussed how they may campaign together with county school board members to win public support for the wheel tax.
Some signs of opposition already have begun, board member George Meacham said. He said he saw some "No Wheel Tax" bumper stickers at Saturday's downtown cruise-in.
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 ...