CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Bradley County Board of Education Chairman Nicholas Lillios has opened "a starting point for discussion" for a "pay as you go" long-term educational capital outlay plan.
The plan, which seeks to do away with bond issues and debt service, calls for a 15 percent county property tax hike and a $2 million annual commitment from the school system.
"We can have a 40-year capital improvement plan with this revenue stream," said Lillios in a recent meeting.
A 15 percent property tax increase would add an additional 28 cents to Bradley County's current rate of $1.8721 per $100 of assessed property value, which amounts to an additional tax of $105 per year on a $150,000 home.
Lillios estimated that the proposed tax increase would bring an estimated $5 million per year to local government coffers, with Bradley County receiving $3 million and Cleveland receiving $2 million.
If the county share is dedicated to educational capital outlay, the school system's "sacrifice" would be $2 million -- about 3 percent -- of its annual $65 million budget, said Lillios.
The Bradley County Commission and the school board would be contractually obligated to put the $5 million "strictly toward capital improvements," he said.
Lillios said he wants the Bradley County Commission to consider the proposal for this budget cycle, which would put off the construction of a comprehensive overhaul for Lake Forest Middle School by two years while capital funds accrued.
Figures dating back to 2011 projected the makeover to cost between $12 million and $14 million. The proposed overhaul entails building a 57-classroom central academic building and demolishing nearly a dozen 40-year-old classroom pods spread across the 75-acre campus.
If implemented, the plan would save $16 million in interest on Lake Forest, enough to build another school, said Lillios.
Board member Chris Turner voiced both praise and concern for the proposal.
"I love the idea, I love the structure, but I don't like the premise of that plan is our commitment to a significant cut in our budgets," said Turner.
The $2 million cut only amounts to an additional $1.4 million cut in future budgets, since $600,000 in annual payments to Cleveland as part of a sales tax settlement is coming to an end and could be recommitted to capital outlay, said Lillios.
Turner said he favored a savings program, but that he considered holding back $500,000 per year for capital needs as "appropriate," which the school system managed to do in the current fiscal year.
The potential loss of funding for a comprehensive technology upgrade for the school system was a big issue, said Turner.
The tax hike is four times larger than a 7-cent tax hike proposal that was recently put before the Bradley County Commission. The proposal, made by Commissioner Thomas Crye, died for lack of a second motion.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.