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Maury County approves $ 74 million to fund school system


As Spring Hill High School continues to bursting with growth, the Maury County Public School District can finally move forward with looming plans to build a new high school in Spring Hill.

The high school, located in northern Maury County, is currently operating above its capacity of 1,200 places by approximately 50 students. MCPS Superintendent Michael Hickman said installing laptops this school year is a probability due to the growing student body.

“We need more seats,” Hickman said simply at a recent town hall meeting as he begged the Maury County Commission to approve the school district’s investment plan.

The new Battle Creek Elementary School, which opened in 2019, is also starting to fill up quickly. Although space was freed up at Spring Hill Elementary School when Battle Creek Elementary School opened, rapid development precedes the need for another elementary school in the near future.

Capital approved after months of debate

On Monday evening, the Maury County Commission voted in favor of MCPS’s capital funding plan that could kick off construction of new schools.

The Maury County Commission approved MCPS’s $ 74 million investment plan that would fund a roadmap to build new schools and make improvements throughout the district, including a new high school in Spring Hill.

The adoption of the resolution marks a step forward after months of negotiations between the school board and the county commission.

The school board originally requested $ 83 million to fund its capital project plan, but the board voted to cut costs.

Following:“We just need seats:” Maury Schools’ $ 83 million capital project proposal on the table

The final resolution proposed by county budget committee chairman Scott Sumner was passed on July 14 at the committee’s plenary meeting on Monday. Commissioners voting in favor include Linda Whiteside, Jordon Shaw, Wayne Patterson, Kevin Markham, Craig Harris, Don Morrow, Michelle Haney, Tommy Wolaver, Eric Previti, Terry Potts, David Mischke, Brain McKelvy, Larry Brown and Sumners.

Ken Banks, Debbie Turner, Gwynne Evans, Sue Stephenson, Gary Stovall, Connie Green and Talvin Barner voted against.

Hickman said he was “ecstatic” after the meeting once the funds were approved.

The Maury County Commission listens to a public comment made by Paco Havard during its monthly meeting in the Tom Primm Commission meeting room in Columbia, Tennessee on Monday August 16, 2021

With the close of the books for the current fiscal year, it’s still unclear exactly how much the purchase of school capital bonds will cost local taxpayers, in terms of school debt.

“I wish we could have gotten the $ 83 million from Sumners,” The Daily Herald said. “It would have removed a lot of needs from the school board’s list.”

The Maury County Commission meets in the Tom Primm Commission meeting room in Columbia, Tennessee on Monday, August 16, 2021.

Pressure from rising interest rates

At a budget committee meeting last week, Sumners explained that the county bond agent said the local government should budget a higher rate to prepare as lending rates are expected to rise.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” Sumners said. “It depends on the interest rate we get. Plus, there’s going to be a revaluation [of property values] also.”

Based on the previously proposed $ 83 millionplan, Sumners once said that the rate could rise at an additional cost of $ 16.6 million over the life of a 20-year bond.

The approval partially funds the school board’s long-term capital plan to build a new 2,000-student high school on Spring Hill’s Battle Creek campus on Mahlon Moore Road, at an estimated cost of $ 70 million; a new auxiliary gymnasium at the Santa Fe Unit school; repairs to Mt. Pleasant Elementary School and Joseph Brown Elementary School, estimated at approximately $ 5 million; and the conversion of Spring Hill Secondary School to an elementary school, at an estimated cost of $ 10 million.

Following:“We just need seats:” Maury Schools’ $ 83 million capital project proposal on the table

The “conversion” of Spring Hill High School to an elementary school remained the most controversial part of the plan throughout budget negotiations with commissioners and community members opposed to the idea.

“The $ 74 million would potentially allow them to have a new high school and the gym in Santa Fe as well,” Sumners said. “Then the school board can come back in two or three years and say what to do with the Spring Hill High School building.”

Property taxes could increase

Representatives from the Maury County Finance Department have previously said the county’s property tax rate could rise by about 7.86% as the county borrows money.

While the county’s property tax rate has already been set for the current fiscal year, a potential property tax increase would take effect in fiscal year 2022-2023 if the county chooses to borrow the funds.

For example, owners of a home valued at $ 300,000 would have to pay $ 132 more in property taxes each year.

Previous estimates put the rate up by about 6.38%, costing the same home $ 107 in additional taxes.

Following:“The Secret Is Out”: How Maury County Became Tennessee’s Fastest Growing County

Work together

Michael Fulbright, chairman of the MPCS school board, said he was looking forward to and happy with the cooperation between the agencies.

“I think it’s pretty exciting to see the county commission and the school board working together,” Fulbright said. “Realizing that this is not a one-time deal, to see people putting aside their own political aspirations … I’m just really proud of this county board and the school board. I think we have made great strides, and we are certainly headed in the right direction. “

Morrow, chairman of the Maury County Commission, said the commission spent more than 22 hours discussing the county’s budget in special meetings.

“We have done better financially this year than we thought,” said Morrow. “We hope we end up with a better grade next year and that the tax hike – if we make one – maybe won’t be that bad. All the surrounding counties are in debt because the schools are expensive. . All growing counties have debt, and it’s just hitting us now. We’re going to have a little bit of debt. Every business has debt when it starts, and we’re growing like a small business now. It’s pretty crazy . ”

Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Michal Hickman attends a Maury County Commission meeting in the Tom Primm Commission Boardroom in Columbia, Tenn. On Monday August 16, 2021

The school board will rework its plan

Following the loan approved on Monday, the school board must now decide which projects it will pursue with the approved funds.

“It would have been really good for the district, the schools and the kids if we had been fully funded,” Hickman said.

“That said, I’m glad they brought this back instead of killing him until next year,” Hickman said. “I’m glad they came up with a number that we can take back to the board and decide what we’re going to come up with.”

The school board will now meet to decide which projects will go ahead after securing the $ 74 million.

With Spring Hill School School above its capacity of 1,200 by more than 50 students, Hickman said he would strongly recommend that the school board move forward by funding more classrooms in the north of the county.

District 8 School Board member Austin Hooper said his top priority was funding the new Spring Hill High School and the Santa Fe Gymnasium.

“We’ll see where the conversations go now that we have a number we can work on,” Hooper said. “I am shocked that something has happened. I am grateful that it has happened and we are going to do whatever we can with it. I hope it will be positive.”

Following:‘Unprecedented disruption’: Scores indicate Maury County students struggle to keep up

The approval comes as a new batch of test results indicate that MCPS students continue to lag behind their peers in academic performance on the Tennessee standardized exam, TNReady.

The latest scores reflect low scores from ongoing tests that even preceded the unprecedented changes brought about by the coronavirus.

Before the pandemic led to an early end of the 2019-2020 school year, MCPS students continuously performed below state standards, achieving the state’s lowest ranking in the d categories. literacy, numeracy and social studies. Since at least 2017, the school district has received an overall Level 1 ranking through the Tennessee Value-Added Rating System.

Before the resolution was approved on Monday, Commissioner Sue Stephenson proposed an amendment to change the capital request to $ 64 million. He got a second from Commissioner Debbie Turner.

“I remember our deficit,” Stephenson said. “I don’t think we should borrow $ 83 million because we already have $ 150 million in debt. We still pay for Central High School, and we still pay for Battle Creek Elementary School and the school. intermediate Battle Creek. ”

Terry Potts brought in a $ 72 million motion, but it did not get a majority of the votes.

“We’ve been beating this thing up for several months now,” Morrow said at Monday’s meeting, sharing a message with school board members. “Make us proud of what you are going to do and let us move this country forward. It has been a long battle on this motion tonight. ”

Contact Mike Christen at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.


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