Politics

$32 Million Bond for Schools Approved

Commission approves $32 million bond for a new Blanche school along with a new addition to the county high school.

With this month’s County Commission meeting, the biggest vote centered on the $32 million bond for a new Blanche school along with a new addition to the county high school.

The Commissioners Packet can be found here. Let’s take a look at what happened in this month’s commission meeting.

School Building Program

We’ll start with the big vote – approval for bonds not to exceed $32,265,000. The $32 million breaks down into three big areas:

  • $17.6 million for the new elementary school for Blanche area students.
  • $5.7 million for a new addition at the high school
  • $8.6 million for city schools, which is required by state law for county school bonds. With city residents also paying county taxes, this prevents double taxation.

The bond measure comes at no increase to the current property tax rate. The final vote found 20 commissioners voting yes with Commissioners Cunningham and Jacks voting no.

When asked about the vote outcome, Dr. Bill Heath, Director of Schools, said “Our kids at Blanche and the Blanche community, in about two and a half years, will have a lot of pride in their new school facility. There’s a lot of pride there now but the facility is old and this is going to help us quite a bit. At the high school, the science lab is so old. We’re able to update them now and get more STEM classes in there. It’s all to the benefit of our kids.”

Commissioner Jacks said his no vote came not out of opposition to the project but because he needed more time to consider the bond funding.

Other Budget Approvals

Along with the bond measure, the commission approved a few other budget requests:

  • A PILOT (payment in lieu of tax) for Project Shamrock. This was requested by the Industrial Development Board as part of industry recruitment.
  • $18,000 for sewer billing, which Fayetteville Public Utilities ends in November and the Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities picks up in January.
  • $20,000 for Cope Architecture to provide document plans and specs for renovations at the jail.

Five Year Re-Appraisal Cycle

Paul Braden, Assessor of Property, and Mark Bolner, Director of Tennessee Property Assessor’s Office, presented the commission with information on moving from the county’s current six-year appraisal cycle to a five-year cycle. Lincoln County is in the minority of counties using a six-year cycle with 76% of other counties using either a four or five-year cycle.

Bolner laid out several advantages of the change, most notably that is keeps properties better in-line with current market values. Braden said, “We’ll get a much better grip on what’s going on” in the market. Right now, Braden’s office estimates that county properties will be 14% to 16% undervalued by the end of the year.

Both Bolner and Braden pointed out several times that re-appraisal doesn’t mean a higher tax rate. “The tax rate could even go down like it did in 2013,” said Braden. “I’d logically think it would happen this time as well.”

Animal Shelter

During the new business portion, Gwen Perry asked commissioners for help with the situation at the animal shelter. It’s currently at capacity and turning away animals that are brought in as rescues. With a total capacity of 40 dogs, the shelter sees over 50 new rescues each month.

Recounting the story of a dog that was turned away and eventually placed in a local resident’s house, Perry said “We cannot hold citizens hostage and force them to do this. We need your help.”

The full county commission meeting can be seen below. Mark your calendars for next month’s meeting on November 20th at 6pm.

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