ROGERSVILLE - The $38 million phase three Hawkins County school building project passed the first leg of its journey toward final approval Monday, but the biggest tests are still to come.
The Hawkins County Commission's Budget Committee voted Monday in favor of sending a resolution regarding to project to the full commission for consideration during next week's regular monthly meeting.
That resolution basically asks the full commission to send the project back to the Budget Committee to be considered for funding in the county's 2007-08 fiscal year budget. If the Budget Committee then places the project in the proposed 2007-08 budget, it would be sent back to the commission for final approval.
Director of Schools Clayton Armstrong gave the five Budget Committee members in attendance for Monday's meeting his reasoning behind why the project should be approved for the upcoming fiscal year budget. Armstrong noted that with Hawkins County being listed as the state's 20th-fastest-growing county, the need for additional classroom space will not go away.
He added that the project is inevitable, and postponement will only increase the cost as construction costs continue to rise.
Budget Committee members didn't discuss the project prior to the vote. It was, however, made clear that Budget Committee members were simply voting to forward the resolution to the full commission and this was not a recommendation.
But some commissioners told the Times-News Monday under condition of anonymity that they aren't optimistic that the project will be approved by the full commission as submitted. It may have a better chance of being approved piecemeal over the next several years.
The main reason for that skepticism is the fact that the Hawkins County Commission has already approved three consecutive property tax increases, and funding the phase three building project would require another tax increase.
According to figures tabulated by the county mayor's office, the project as presented would require a 28 to 30 cent property tax increase based on current bond interest rates for a 30-year payoff.
For a home valued at $100,000, a 30 cent property tax increase would result in an increase of $75 annually.
The phase three building project includes construction of a new K-12 Clinch School; construction of a new fifth- and sixth-grade school on the campus of Church Hill Middle School; construction of new ninth-grade wings at both Volunteer and Cherokee high schools; and a classroom addition and renovation project at Bulls Gap School.