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Farragut Schools Forum draws hundreds
Audience suggests moratorium on Farragut home building, impact fees, property condemnation, leasing Kmart touted as solutions to overcrowding

Farragut Mayor Eddy Ford listens as Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale fields a question during the Farragut Schools Forum held at the Vickie B. Wells Auditorium at Farragut High School Monday night.- Dan Barile/farragutpress
A moratorium on home building, an impact fee imposed on builders, condemnation of property and increased property taxes were a few of the suggestions thrown at a panel of Knox Countians representing government, schools and parents during a Farragut Schools Forum held at Farragut High School Monday, Jan. 26.

The forum panel was comprised of Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale; Farragut Mayor Eddy Ford; Dr. Charles Lindsey, superintendent of Knox County Schools; Roy Mullins, assistant superintendent of Knox County Schools; Charles (Chuck) James, 6th District School Board representative; Brian Hornback, 5th District School Board representative; Knox County Commissioner Craig Leuthold; and Karen Carson, 5th District School Board candidate and president of the Knox County PTA.

Moderator for the forum was WATE-TV news anchor Gene Patterson.

Ragsdale addressed the issue of an impact fee imposed on builders. “We have to be realistic about this,” he said. “If we’re going to put an impact fee on builders, we might as well raise property taxes” as the builders will just add the fee to the cost of the home. “It’s not going to be the developers who are paying, it’s just going to go onto the cost of your home,” he said.

Ragsdale also addressed the increase of property taxes to fund schools.

“We have to look at how we are spending our money,” he said. He added that Knox County government was doing things differently this year. He cited that Knox County has 70 fewer employees this year than last and that his administration is continually looking at ways duplication of services can be eliminated.

Ragsdale pointed out that the Knox County government and the Knox County Schools System have consolidated their telephone system, Knox County has reworked its insurance coverage and refinanced its debt saving millions overall.

Ragsdale also quickly quashed any idea of a moratorium on building. He addressed the idea by asking the audience member who suggested a moratorium, a recent community arrival from Chicago, what they did for a living. He followed by suggesting that a moratorium be placed on her particular business and asked what impact that would have, demonstrating how harmful moratoriums can be.

Mayor Ford told the gathering of a few hundred of the estimated 19,000 residents living in the Farragut area that the town of Farragut was proud of the Farragut schools and the work they do. He added that Farragut schools were a selling point for those who looked to move to the Farragut area, but that the “town of Farragut was not in the school business.”

Ford, expanded his point adding, “The town of Farragut is not in the police protection business. The town of Farragut is not in the fire protection business. The town of Farragut does not provide a utility service. The town of Farragut does not provide a garbage collection business.

“The town of Farragut does not levy property taxes on its citizens. The town of Farragut does not levy business taxes on its businesses. The town of Farragut does not even get the Hotel/Motel tax, even though it has four motels inside its boundaries.

“The town of Farragut charges no citizen any money whatsoever to live within its boundaries. … It’s a different model, but it works.”

He said Farragut’s idea is to not duplicate services when you have such a high level of services offered by the public and private sector of other forms of government and private industry.

One of the most innovative ideas from the audience was in the suggestion that the Knox County Schools System look at the vacant Kmart building across the street for additional classroom space.

Dr. Lindsey said that Knox County Schools had been approached by the Food Lion company that proposed leasing its vacant stores to the schools. Lindsey added that the idea was being looked at.

Several panel members, including James and Hornback, responded to the Kmart suggestion in a positive manner.

The overall consensus from the audience was that something, a new school, was needed now and not in the estimated five to 10 years Dr. Lindsey suggested would be the time needed to buy property, prepare the land and build a school.

An audience member posed the question concerning Knox County’s ability to condemn property if owners were unwilling to sell.

Ragsdale said, “Absolutely,” the county had that option.

Lindsey said that at the Tuesday night School Board meeting a discussion was on the agenda concerning three proposed parcels of land in the Hardin Valley/Solway area for a new school. Results of the meeting were not available at press time.

The forum was presented by the Farragut High School PTSO, the Farragut Middle School PTSA and the PTAs of Farragut Intermediate and Primary Schools.

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