Property tax increase nixed, but school fees increase - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Property tax increase nixed, but school fees increase

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - It's back to the drawing board for Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith to find a way to balance the district's budget.

“For us here in the school system, we'll continue to talk our message. The needs are great, they haven't changed. And now our board will get busy in the next few days and balance our budget,” Smith said.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger stopped Smith's requested Tuesday for a property tax increase saying raising taxes should only be used as a last resort.

Smith says he isn't surprised by the decision and will have to cut elementary foreign language and arts classes from the enhancement list.

“Those things that we really felt like were important to our school system and our children, really focusing on elementary education when you look at that list. So, we'll have to go back and pare that list down considerably,” he added.

Smith hasn't shut the door on teacher raises just yet. He believes he can still make it work.

“What we hope to do is whatever dollars that comes to us from the state, we'd like to pass that along to our teachers. We'll see how that works out in the next couple days,” Smith said.

Even though property taxes won't be going up for Hamilton County residents, parents will be digging deeper into their wallets come August.

Board members voted Tuesday to increase school fees. Fees vary from school to school and help fund a wide range of needs.

Members were vocal on both sides of the topic.

“It's supposed to be a free education but it's not when you have to pay fees. So, it is another way of taxing. You know, we'd like to get rid of that, but I don't know if it's going to happen or not,” District 6 board member Joe Galloway said.

“When people are paying the fees, it helps with the programming that goes on at each local school and that's determined by the local school. All we basically did was approve what each principal at each school said they needed for local funds,” District 3 board member Dr. Greg Martin said.

Smith will have that revised budget to Mayor Coppinger next week.

Coppinger will present the entire county budget to the public on June 3rd.
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