Rhea County to fund new high school

Rhea County to fund new high school

July 21st, 2011 by By Tom Davis/Correspondent in News


Wheel tax resolution

For: Emmaly Fisher, Bill Hollin, Tom Smith

Against: Doyle Montgomery, Grover Parks, Ronnie Raper, Jim Reed, Tracy Taylor

Bond resolution

For: Fisher, Hollin, Montgomery, Parks, Raper, Reed, Taylor

Against: Smith

DAYTON, Tenn. - Rhea County commissioners voted late Tuesday to fund construction of a new high school but declined to pass a wheel tax to build a jail or a justice center.

Commissioners were presented a resolution to authorize selling up to $50 million in bonds to finance both the high school and justice facility or jail - officials have said they'd build one or the other but not both - but they changed the amount to $35 million after the wheel tax resolution failed.

A wheel tax is collected when residents register or renew their vehicles in the county.

The bond resolution was approved on a 7-1 vote, with one commissioner absent.

Financial consultant Tom McAnulty told commissioners that the $35 million bond issue was structured so that the school could be funded without a property tax increase. But on questioning by Commissioner Jim Reed, McAnulty said he "didn't take into consideration the needs of other funds in the county."

"We're voting in something we don't know if we can pay for," Reed said. "We don't know the total cost of maintenance, electricity, staffing at each facility. I'm for a new high school and junior high. But I want everyone to understand where we stand. This is not a free school."

Commissioner Bill Hollin said the financial assumptions included steady growth in property tax and sales tax revenues over the 25-year life of the bond issue.

"I don't believe in fairy tales," he said. "I don't believe this will happen."

McAnulty agreed, saying, "No one living can tell you what will happen next week, next month or 20 years from now."

"What is going to happen in the country is going to happen, and you are going to have to live with it," he said. "If something happens, your obligation to the bond buyer is that you will have to step up and raise taxes."

Earlier, commissioners rejected a proposed wheel tax of $48 per year per vehicle that would have provided funds to spend up to $15 million on a jail or justice center and supported volunteer fire departments and the county's solid waste budget.

Commissioners initially removed the funds for the fire departments and solid waste fund and rejected a "sunset" provision that would have ended the tax when the facility was paid off.

Despite the changes, the resolution failed on a 3-5 vote with one absent.

Tom Davis is based in Dayton. Contact him at tsdavis@volstate.net.