published Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Bradley County school board debates new science wing

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Now is the time for the Bradley County school board to begin a savings account for a future science wing at Bradley Central High School, according to board member Troy Weathers.

It's a good idea but now is not the time to begin setting aside $200,000 a year, according to board member David Kelley.

A two-week debate on the issue came down to a 3-3 tie vote Tuesday.

The board did approve a $65.5 million general fund budget for 2012-13 that includes a 3 percent raise for school system employees and contractor bus drivers.

The board also approved a $3.2 million capital projects budget, half of which is scheduled for roofing and heating and air needs at various schools.

It is the biggest capital projects budget in years, partly due sales tax revenue from construction spending after the April 27, 2011, tornadoes and from conservative budget measures by the board during the recession years, according to Director Johnny McDaniel.

Weathers reminded the board it saved money annually for Bradley Central's Fine Arts Center.

He proposed doing the same for a science wing. Walker Valley is on track for an expansion. Cleveland High School opened a science wing last fall.

"It behooves us to take into consideration what is needed now," Kelley said. "We need to take care of the bare essentials first."

"They need it," Weathers said of Bradley Central. "It is not a luxury. It is classroom space. That's all it is."

Taking $200,000 out of this year's capital spending would still leave the biggest building improvement plan in years, Weathers argued. It is just because there is more money this year that the system should take care of delayed needs, Kelley argued.

"Don't tell the public we are in an emergency mode," Weathers said. "We have more money that we ever had."

"We also have the strongest needs because we have been putting them off," Kelley said. "So yes, we are in an emergency mode."

The board briefly discussed taking $200,000 from the capital projects budget to start the savings. But in the end, Weathers, Rodney Dillard and Christy Critchfield voted yes while Richard Baker, Kelley and Chairman Charlie Rose voted no.

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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