Tax hike plea for education almost certain

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How high a request not known

By Damon Lawrence

Roane County Board of Education Member Mike “Brillo” Miller implored county commissioners to not take a steadfast stance against a property tax rate increase at this stage in the budget process.

“Don’t make the statement right now, ‘I’m not going to raise taxes,’” he said.

“If I was sitting in your chair, would I be giving these men or these kids or anybody in this community a fair look?”

Miller’s comments came during a work session between the school board and Roane County Commission last Thursday in Kingston Community Center.

The commission is the funding body for the school system, which is facing a budget shortfall of about $3 million.

Schools business manager Eric Harbin told school board members on April 18 that it would take a 26-cent increase in the property tax rate to cover the deficit.

“There’s no way that I will vote for a 26-cent property tax increase in this economic time,” Commissioner Randy Ellis said.

The county’s current property tax rate is $2.18 per $100 valuation.

Miller said the school board doesn’t yet know how much of an increase it will ask for.

“I can tell you this: it won’t be 26 cents,” he said. “This school board will not ask for a 26 cent increase. I’ll guarantee you that. Or I can speak for myself. I guarantee you I won’t vote for 26 cents, but will there probably be something? Yes it will.”  

Board Member Wade McCullough said the school board has a budget workshop planned for May 14.  He asked commissioners and the public to attend.   

“This is not just a Roane County school board and it’s not just Roane County Commission,” he said. “It’s a Roane County issue.”  

School officials have attributed the financial problems to a decrease in students and changes in the formula the state uses to allocate money to school systems.

The budget deficit isn’t the only thing officials are grappling with.
School Board Member Danny Wright gave a presentation at the work session on increased school security.

The plan calls for camera system upgrades and hiring an additional 12 school resource officers.

“If we run the numbers based on what Danny put up there, that’s another 20 cents,” Commissioner Bobby Collier said.

“That will be 46 cents we got to come up with somewhere.”