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It’s official: a new West Knox County high school is in the budget

The Knox County Board of Education unanimously passed a measure bringing the realization of a new West Knox County high school one step closer at its meeting Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Board member Chuck James made the motion to approve a revised capital plan that includes the insertion of a $40 million appropriation toward a new school.

That’s the amount promised by Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and the Knox County Commission from revenue generated from the new Wheel Tax, or a 19-cent property tax increase if voters repeal the Wheel Tax in the Nov. 2 general election.

Should voters repeal the Wheel Tax, Ragsdale has said commission will increase property taxes to fund a new school and other county projects.

The school board’s vote was in part to declare and formally recognize how the county’s money would be spent to the County Commission .

About the vote, Board of Education chairman Dan Murphy said, “really what this represents is an expression of support for not only our capital plan but also for the construction of a badly needed high school.”

However, the decision was not without contention. After the vote, board member Jim Williams remarked that he had considered asking to defer the motion until the capital plan could be studied further in order to make some changes. “Changes,” he said, “that we can all live with and that we can afford.”

Williams conceded but noted his concern that a new high school would bump some other programs. Improvements to schools in his district (8th) are incorporated into the current capital plan including money allocated toward Gibbs and Carter elementary schools.

Williams concluded, “I guess I’ll have to put my faith in those people that are involved at this time and see what happens, understanding that we need to take a very close look at the needs all over Knox County.”

James told the farragutpress that he is also dedicated to other county projects. “We just need to spend what we can afford [on a new high school] where we can also do some upgrades at Farragut, do some upgrades at Karns, get the projects at Carter and Gibbs going.”

Board member Sam Anderson added that the school board should be free to transfer any funds potentially left over from construction to other county projects, reiterating that, “the primary function is the high school.”

Murphy said the board made it clear to the County Commission and the mayor that they would not enter into a long-term obligation without “a dedicated revenue stream … we need to be assured that we’ll receive enough money to support $40 million of debt service … the mayor understands that.”

About construction options, Murphy told the farragutpress, “I’m also committed to exploring alternative approaches. Design/

build is one, use of a private developer is another.”

He added, “what we need to do is bring that school online as expeditiously as we can and on budget.”

In other business:

Teachers and other certified employees will receive a raise as soon as their November paychecks arrive, retroactive to the beginning of the school year.

“Everybody’s getting a raise,” Murphy stated, adding that the board still hasn’t reached its goal to be competitive based on national salary averages.


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