published Friday, July 18th, 2014

Hamilton County Board of Education eyes liquor tax 'windfall' for one-time expenses, not operations

The Hamilton County Board of Education will set up a committee to figure out how to spend what District 3 school board member Greg Martin called a "windfall" of $11.7 million in liquor tax money.

The settlement money that the school district will get from the city won't go toward school operations, but would be used for one-time expenditures, under a motion made by Martin, who represents Hixson.

"It could be buildings, it could be roofs, it could be tech," Martin said after the meeting. He doesn't want the district to fund school operations with the expected six payments of $1.96 million from the city -- only to be stuck figuring out how to continue funding once the settlement payments stop.

School board member Jeffrey Wilson, whose District 5 includes the Brainerd area, cautioned, "When you handcuff money like that, you just have to be careful."

Along with the $11.7 million cash settlement, the city agreed to give the school district the North River YMCA swimming pool and 19.9 vacant acres across from Howard High School that's known as the Maurice Poss Homes property.

"The settlement is actually better for both of us," than a cash payment, school district attorney D. Scott Bennett said, because the district could create an athletic center for Howard High on the vacant land.

The settlement still needs to be formalized. From that point on, Bennett said, the city also will pass along about $1 million annually in liquor tax money to the school district.

In other business, the school board voted unanimously to revoke the charter for The New Consortium of Law and Business, a charter school that a Memphis-based business proposed to open this fall amid public housing in Chattanooga's Westside neighborhood.

The charter school's officials never signed a lease at the former James A. Henry School on Grove Street, hadn't shown that they had hired teachers and failed to meet 59 "key milestones" spelled out in their charter school application, district officials said.

No one from the charter school spoke at Thursday's meeting.

Wilson, who's stepping down from the board, got a plaque Thursday night from the board honoring his nine years of service.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.

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about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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