Rhea County questions how to spend million dollar surplus - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Rhea County questions how to spend million dollar surplus

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DAYTON, TN (WRCB) - While most school systems are scraping to find money for school improvements, Rhea County recently came into an extra million bucks. The new Rhea County High School opened this school year and it turns out, the state of the art facility came in under budget.

The new high school opened in August, with finishing touches being completed throughout this school year. In February contractors rang up the final tab at almost a million dollars less than budgeted. School and county officials are still trying to decide how to spend it.

Construction began on the new Rhea County High School back in 2011 to relieve overcrowding issues. The budget was around $30.95 million. Fast forward a couple of years, and the students are now enjoying the new spacious building equipped with the latest technology. The final cost of it all was $29.9 million, which leaves almost a million left on the table.

"Certainly an exciting thing. It's a unique thing," Rhea County Superintendent Jerry Levengood said.

Superintendent Jerry Levengood says he planned for the highest estimate and is glad that method paid off. Now Rhea County is faced with a dilemma most counties wish they had deciding where the leftover money goes.

"If it is a problem and I don't think it is. I don't think anybody foresees it as a problem, but if it is, it's the best kind that you can have," Levengood said.

He thinks it should be used to pay off the debt from upgrading the middle-high school football field and track.

"The most common sense thing to do is pay off a debt that we have," he said.

County officials, however, still want to explore all options.

"I'm not only there for schools, the county and sheriff's department and our trash, it's just so many things that's on my plate we have to figure out," Rhea County Executive George Thacker said.

School and county officials say they still need to sit down together with their attorneys and the bond counsel to discuss the legal specifications on how it can be spent to most benefit taxpayers.

"That's where the debate is, what it can be used for and that's what we're trying to find out," Thacker said.

"We certainly don't want something like this to be something that's divisive, but that's something we can all agree on," Levengood said.

One thing they already agree on is how pleased they are with the school's finished product. They hope it will attract more families and investors to rhea county.

The school board and county commission have not set a date yet on when they'll discuss the matter. They say Senator Bob Corker has also offered praise to them for the rare million dollar savings.
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