Funding strategies for new Cleveland gym eyed

Funding strategies for new Cleveland gym eyed

February 27th, 2014 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

The Cleveland High School gym remains closed due to problems with the roof. The recent snowfall has caused further damage.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The Cleveland City Council wants a few more weeks before devising a comprehensive funding strategy to pay for a new gymnasium for Cleveland High School.

Preliminary estimates place the cost of a new facility between $11 million and $12.5 million, depending on seating capacity.

City officials have estimated it will require a 9-cent property tax increase for Cleveland to pay the annual debt service on a $12 million bond.

On Wednesday, Cleveland City Board of Education members discussed the project's status during a meeting of that body's Site Committee.

"A 9-cent property tax increase would be the swiftest way to get this done," said Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools. "I won't say the easiest or best - just the swiftest."

The City Council is looking for ways to fund the project, but raising taxes is not a very popular option, especially in an election year, he said.

"We've got to find some money somewhere - a lot of it," Councilman George Poe has said.

School board members said everyone they have talked to in the community has been very supportive of replacing the high school's gymnasium.

In December, Cleveland High School lost the use of its main gymnasium and a number of wellness programming spaces when the Raider Dome, which houses those facilities, was closed after an unfavorable structural analysis.

Physical education classes have been moved to other sites around the high school campus, and athletic events have been moved to Cleveland Middle School and Lee University, school officials said.

"It's not just a loss of a gymnasium," Ringstaff said. "It's the loss of an academic wing."

Although no major decisions have been made about totally funding the construction of a new gymnasium, some money has been allocated.

In a previous meeting, the Cleveland City Council approved the auction of the unused Webb Building, located on First Street, in an effort to provide the school system with funds to go toward $33,000 in architectural fees for the gymnasium project.

The Webb Building, which was donated to the city, had a donation value of $200,000 but an accurate current appraisal is not known, city officials said.

However, the school system actually needs another $38,000 to cover $71,000 in architectural fees, Ringstaff said.

The $38,000 is needed to cover architectural costs associated with a proposed elementary school that is to be located on Georgetown Road, he said.

The elementary school project began early last year as a means to address overcrowding and expected growth in the city school system, education officials said.

That project, which has not yet been funded by the City Council, is estimated to cost $16 million.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at