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Children walk between classroom buildings at Lake Forest Middle School in Cleveland in this 2012 photo.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Bradley County leaders are working to identify how and when to pay for up to $18 million needed for a proposed overhaul of Lake Forest Middle School.

Today, the Bradley County Finance Committee is scheduled to review possible revenue streams for the capital effort.

Future property tax revenue generated by chemical manufacturer Wacker Chemical, which is expected to begin operations in northern Bradley County this year, has been a part of recurring discussions for paying for the school's overhaul for a number of years.

"We don't budget hypothetically," Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said in a recent meeting with the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland. "When you talk about Wacker [tax revenues], it's all hypothetical, because we don't have a year [of collections] behind us yet."

Based on the county's current revenue streams and commitments, Davis said he believes 2016 or 2017 would be the earliest that Bradley County could borrow money for the Lake Forest Middle School project.

County leaders also plan to consider whether to sell any unused properties as a way to contribute funding to the overhaul.

A recent discussion about the possible sale of Peerless Road property received a mixed reception among commissioners. The county cannery, a recycling center and parks department offices are located on the parcel.

The Bradley County Commission voted 12-2 in December to reaffirm a commitment made by the prior county commission in September 2013 to fund the Lake Forest makeover, which calls for replacing about a dozen classroom pods spread across the 75-acre campus with a central academic building.

The commitment is "conditional on the approval of the Bradley County mayor and the finance director at the time of funding," according to the reaffirming measure.

Funding the capital project is preferable to pouring money down "a black hole" for ongoing maintenance and repairs to the campus' aging structures, Commission Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber said.

The measure calls for the county to provide up to $12 million for the academic building's construction and infrastructural assets, but does not include items such as furniture or equipment that is not infrastructural in nature.

However, the county will have to raise an additional $6 million for Cleveland's school system whenever it issues a $12 million bond for Lake Forest, raising the total price tag to $18 million.

According to a longstanding agreement between Bradley County and Cleveland that is based on the number of students in the county and city school systems, the county must raise $1 for city schools for every $2 it raises for county schools.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland.Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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