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Schools asking for 9-cent tax hike

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By Damon Lawrence

The Roane County Board of Education approved a $64.8 million budget on Thursday that requests a 9-cent increase in the property tax rate.

“It’s certainly not what we need, but it will keep us going for two or three years,” Director of Schools Gary Aytes said. “By that time, we hope the economy will recover and the state will come through with some more funding.”

The budget passed by an 8-2 vote. Mike “Brillo” Miller and Danny Wright were the two who voted no.

“I support the board’s actions, but I voted no because I felt like I needed to research it more,” Miller said.

Property tax rates in Roane County vary depending on where a person owns property.

Those in the unincorporated areas of the county currently pay $2.18 per $100 valuation.

Property owners in Kingston, Oliver Springs and Rockwood pay $2.13.

Property owners in Harriman pay $1.99. The rate in Oak Ridge is $1.97.

A 9-cent increase will generate $1.017 million for the school system.

The request must be approved by the Roane County Commission, which is the funding body for the school system.

The school board asked for a 14-cent increase last year, but the commission voted 13-0 to keep all the property tax rates the same.

Commissioners aren’t expected to vote on the tax rates this year until after the Aug. 7 election.

“I’m real optimistic that we can get what we’re asking for this year,” Aytes said.

“I think the county commission understands now that the problem is with the state funding formula,” he added.

“We’re trying to survive on less than the state average per student, and you can’t do that as a school system.

“You have to have the money to educate the children.”

School officials said there are no across-the-board raises for employees in the budget.

Aytes said the budget does allow the school system to keep its graduation coaches, which he said has been a blessing.

“We’ve gone up to a 92.5 percent graduation rate,” he said.

School officials are expected to meet with the commission’s budget committee to discuss the budget on July 21.

The meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the courthouse in Kingston.

In other news, the school board was honored as a Tennessee School Boards Association Board of Distinction on Thursday.

Keys Fillauer, chairman of the Oak Ridge Board of Education, presented the board with a plaque.

“This award, one of TSBA’s most prestigious, celebrates the achievements of those boards that have met the challenge of leadership in every area of their board responsibility,” Fillauer said.