|County commissioners voted 17-4 to approve funding for a new $50 million Stewarts Creek High School to alleviate overcrowding. Some of the same commissioners who opposed funding design of the school back in October also voted against funding construction.
Commissioner Allen McAdoo said he voted "no" because he wanted to wait to see who the new director of schools would be.
"I don't see why we're bringing this up here tonight," McAdoo said. "In my personal opinion, because I want to see that we're going to have the same director before we take on this $50 million project for a high school."
Back in October, McAdoo suggested the commission delay voting on funding design for a new high school until he knew who the winners of November's elections would be.
"I guess the only thing I'm concerned about is this is an election year," McAdoo told the commission in October. "I'm just concerned about obligating to $1.3 million when I can wait a month or two months and wait and see which way the state is going to go."
The wait-and-see approach to solving the county's problem with overcrowded schools was a theme among those opposed to funding the new high school. Two other commissioners said they've "been led to believe" an alternative to funding exists, but no commissioner presented such a plan.
"I just want to announce that I'm going to very, very politiely vote no on this project," Commissioner Robert Stevens said. "I believe we found this way we can supposedly build this school without raising the taxes."
Waiting around for a plan didn't sit well with current Rutherford County Director of Schools Harry Gill who said he and several others across the county have been working day and night to make the most with what they have.
"When we're scheduled to open in 2013, you're going to have about 1,700, 1,800, 1,900 kids that are put outside in portables in La Vergne, Smyrna, Blackman and Riverdale," Gill warned commissioners. "We'll have in excess of 100 portables between those four schools. That's just not a manageable situation. It's not anything that I think anyone in this community would want us to have, nor is it conducive to learning."
Gill said the 22-1/2-month construction schedule must start now if commissioners want the new high school to be open and ready for August 2013. Gill also warned that even with the new high school and modest 3 percent projected growth, the schools will be full.
"If we open Stewarts Creek in 2013, we'll have 1,934 students at La Vergne, 1,877 at Smyrna, we'll open Stewarts Creek with 1,739. Riverdale will be just under 2,000, and Blackman will be right at 1,800," he said. "We don't have the luxury of waiting to find out who the new director is."
Stewarts Creek High School will be located on the larger campus of Stewarts Elementary on Red hawk Parkway off Poplar Wood Road in Smyrna. The county will present a bond proposal to the full commission in June or July.
The commission also voted down a proposal 19-2 that seeks to exempt Rutherford County from state law preventing counties and municipalities from implementing realty transfer taxes. The County Powers Act denies county legislative bodies the opportunity to institute and collect a local realty transfer tax by public or private act.
Concern from those opposed to the tax was that property owners are being double taxed after the builder passes on the cost of a $1,500 development tax to the buyer.
"All these realtors out here are right," Commissioner Stevens said. "The properties are already being taxed for the services at the rate we deem necessary to fund our government, and nothing is happening by it changing hands."
If passed by the county, the measure would have gone to the county's state delegation as proposed state legislation. If pass on a state level, the county would then have to pass it by a two-thirds super majority before fine tuning it. Proponents said the measure simply provides the county with yet another tool to help pay for state requirements and growth.
"One thing that gives us is some ammunition over these unfunded mandates if we ever decide to take them to court over what they required of us," Commissioner Doug Schafer said. "These people are coming in using facilities that everyone in this room has paid for. They're coming in and picking up on where we are. They are bringing kids. That's why we have a new high school on the board now."
Commissioner Brad Turner simplified his reason and summed up some of the opposition to the proposal before the measure was voted down.
"We need to make a stand for the citizens of Rutherford County that we're against any tax increase," Turner said. "And I really strongly believe we need to do that this evening by voting no."