Voters to decide on wheel tax in November

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Roane County voters will head to the polls in November to decide whether the county will implement a $50 wheel tax to help fund the $68 million school plan, the County Commission decided on Monday.

For many Commissioners, putting the wheel tax on the ballot is a way to ensure voters have a say in a controversial $68 million school building plan that would include closing three high schools and consolidating them into a new facility the Board of Education hopes to build near Roane State Community College.

The plan for a wheel tax calls for it to sunset after 15 years. All revenue from the tax would go into education for the first 10 years. For the final five years, the proceeds would be split between education and to fund general county operations.

Should voters reject the wheel tax, it will be off the table for funding the school plan, Commissioners decided. Should the building plan move forward at that point, county leaders would explore other options for funding.

It has been said county property taxes would need to be increased by 36-38 cents per $100 valuation to pay for the program.

School officials intend to merge high schools in Harriman, Kingston and Rockwood into one K-14 facility. The plan would also call for moving around three other schools in the system: Ridge View Elementary to Rockwood High, Harriman Middle to Harriman High; and incorporating Oliver Springs High into Oliver Springs Middle.

A $1 million sewer facility would be built for Midway High.

This is a developing story. Read more in Wednesday's issue of the Roane County News and online at RoaneCounty.com.