Schools, Hamilton County weigh deal on surplus property, funds

Schools, Hamilton County weigh deal on surplus property, funds

September 5th, 2012 by Kevin Hardy in News

Hamilton County Commissioner Larry Henry

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

What: School board work session and special called meeting

When: 4 p.m. Thursday; work session with meeting to follow.

Where: Hamilton County Department of Education, 3074 Hickory Valley Road.

ADDING TEACHERS

At Thursday's school board meeting, the board also will be asked to approve the hiring of additional teachers to meet continued increases in student enrollment.

Most changes in staffing were made through shifting teachers from school to school. But 10 more teachers are needed to comply with state class-size regulations, said Stacy Stewart, assistant superintendent of human resources.

Staffing decisions are made using 10th-day enrollment figures, which this year showed 42,435 students.

A proposed agreement on how surplus school properties are discarded could help bridge the gap between the Hamilton County Board of Education and the Hamilton County Commission, officials said Tuesday.

The two panels have been at an impasse in recent weeks, with much of their dispute centered on the sale of old school buildings and the construction of new ones.

The school board will consider the agreement between the board and the commission that lays out the process for selling unused school property. The draft calls for the school board to funnel funds from the sale of surplus properties to other capital improvements within the system.

School board Chairman Mike Evatt said the agreement would represent a formalization of past practice, not a major change in policy.

"There's been this misnomer for years that we've taken money from the sales of property and stuck it in our operating budget," he said, "and that's simply not true. We're just continuing with past practice."

School board members received the draft agreement Tuesday before their Thursday work session and specially called meeting, Evatt said.

If approved, the agreement could help the relationship between the two bodies, County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said.

"I think we're bridging the gap on any disagreements we've had, and hopefully we'll come to some resolution in the next couple weeks," he said.

Henry said the agreement could help ease some of commissioners' concerns over how the school system spends revenue from property sales.

The commission is holding up construction on a new East Brainerd Elementary School after saying last month that members wanted to see a long-term school building plan. They also said they wanted to know what the board would do with proceeds from the sale of the current school building before they approved the construction of a new school.

If the board approves the agreement, it still needs a vote of approval from the commission.

In the past year, the commission has sought more influence over the building and property sale process within the school system.

In October, the commission approved purchasing property for a new Ooltewah Elementary School but stipulated that the county would keep revenues from the sale of the current building, which is on Lee Highway and is valued at about $1 million.

In November, county commissioners unanimously voted to amend the county-schools agreement, putting in language that would turn over revenues from all school sales to the commission, which then would approve it for future building projects in the school system.

That move died after some commissioners said they voted without knowing the details of that resolution and the school board never brought up the issue.

Commissioner Joe Graham said he still believes the commission should control how revenues are used from the sale of surplus school property. Such money should be applied to the cost of purchasing land and building schools, he said.

"To me, that money should go back to the debt that was incurred," he said.

Graham said the commission wouldn't be hesitant to use those funds for worthwhile school building projects.

"If the project is worthy, it should be worthy of a commission vote," he said.