County commissioners tell the Hamilton County School Board they just don't have the money in the budget to build new schools. Tuesday, the two groups met to talk about the upcoming budget for the 2018 fiscal year.
There was a range of topics discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. The school board addressed financial concerns for rebuilding certain schools, maintenance work, and roof repairs. But county commissioners said there is just too much to be done and not enough money to do it.
It was a joint meeting at the Board of Education. County commissioners and school board members talked face-to-face about facilities and funding. “There is not going to be any new funds in our budget to build new schools,” said County Commissioner Sabrena Turner Smedley.
It was an open discussion. No formal vote or decision was made. Instead, elected officials discussed different strategies to better Hamilton County. “We know, and we have known for the last 30 years this train has been coming down this track. That whistle we heard it 30 years ago. It’s louder because its caught us and about to overtake us,” said School Board Member David Testerman.
The school board wants additional funding for the next school year's budget. County commissioners agreed they can give some money to the budget but some things need to be cut. “We can look at several things. We can chip away at stuff but we can’t chip away too much stuff,” said School Board Member Karitsa Jones.
This district created a priority list last month. They voted that Harrison Elementary and CSLA need to be rebuilt, while East Hamilton Middle School needs a new building due to overcrowding. “Our main problem as a school system by the building in the north county in Ooltewah. Where our focus has to be people because that is where the growth is,” said School Board Member Rhonda Thurman.
But commissioner argued that before they spend money on any new schools, they need to work with what the county already has. “We don't want you to raise our taxes till you prove to us you are using what you got and using classroom space that is available,” said Smedley.
Commissioner Smedley and school board member Dr. Steve Highlander will meet together and discuss what is next. They hope to create a multiple year plan -- to avoid another conversation like this year's down the road.