CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A 20-acre site on Georgetown Road will be purchased for a city elementary school with a 700-student capacity.
Earlier this week, Cleveland City Council and education officials worked out a deal on splitting the $1.125 million cost, which includes $300,000 in ground preparation, with Cleveland City Schools paying $723,000 and the city contributing $402,000.
Both bodies will rely on funds associated with a $1.4 million settlement from Bradley County, the result of a disputed allocation of sale tax revenue increases passed by both city and county in 2009.
Although the City Council approved the plan 7-0, some councilmen questioned why the city should get involved with the property purchase.
"I really think you guys could purchase this now yourself without us," said Councilman Bill Estes, suggesting that the city school board finance the $402,000 balance through a bond.
Estes said the bond payments could come from capital project money funded through a portion of the 2009 sales tax increase. He estimated that a $20,000 bond payment would amount to only a small portion of the capital funding dollars received by the school system each year.
Cleveland City Schools receives about $850,000 for capital funding each year, said Brenda Carson, business manager for the school system. More than half goes to previous major commitments, such as the Cleveland High School science wing, leaving about $400,000 each year.
School officials balked at committing capital money toward property, citing the fund's intent to support major maintenance needs. Next year, most of the available capital funding will go for new school buses and improving security.
The annual capital funding is "a blessing" that prevents the school system from having to request necessities such as school buses from the City Council, said Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools. "We don't want to keep chipping away at it until we have to come ask for school buses in the future," Ringstaff said.
The Georgetown Road site, between Cleveland Middle School and Hopewell Elementary, is expected to be ready for construction within 90 days of the sale agreement, he said.
The proposed elementary is estimated to cost $15.1 million, school officials said.
Financing the facility's construction may be buoyed by Bradley County Schools plans for a $14 million overhaul of Lake Forest Middle School. If the county raises money to fully pay for the middle school makeover, Cleveland City Schools stands to receive $7 million, according to an agreement between the two school systems.