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School board begins to ponder rezoning

Xavier Smith • Aug 10, 2017 at 7:42 PM

The Wilson County school board began to ponder potential options for high school overcrowding, primarily rezoning, during Thursday’s work session after the Wilson County Budget Committee balked at plans for a new Mt. Juliet high school last month.

The committee took no action on the district’s needs assessment list last month, which included a new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, estimated at $110 million.

Wilson County finance director Aaron Maynard said it would cost 12-18 cents on the tax rate to fund a new high school in Mt. Juliet, dependent upon how the debt payment is structured. Maynard also reiterated his statements following last year’s tax increase, noting the county would be strapped for funds for future school construction projects until 2025, based on projections, noting any project would likely require a tax increase. 

Board member Wayne McNeese shared his thoughts on the budget committee’s meeting and the district’s potential next step Thursday.

“What I hear is that there’s not much of a chance of spending $110 million in property taxes in the next couple of years. If that is the case, when will we start our plan B as far as rezoning, because I think we’re going to have to do that,” McNeese said.

“I think that would be some discussions that would have to occur at the next board meeting after the county commission meets,” Wilson County Schools deputy director Mickey Hall said.

“I think it’s important to say that there will be rezoning all over the county. We’re not just talking about Lebanon and Watertown. They’re going to occur everywhere,” board chairman Larry Tomlinson said of the potential rezoning.

Hall said if the district were forced to consider rezoning, the moves would not eliminate the district’s overcrowding issues.

“I can’t push them out of this one school and make this one overloaded and all of that. You take the pieces of the puzzle and redistribute them and make the puzzle look how it’s supposed to look,” he said. “With rezoning, you’re still going to have three high schools with 2,000 kids. We’re not creating capacity. We’re moving kids. We’re not building schools. You’re basically letting Mt. Juliet get 200-300 kids out of it, but you’re redistributing the other schools. They’re losing kids, but they’re also filling back up.”

Wilson County Schools director Donna Wright also noted the potential school populations inflation based on middle school populations, including Mt. Juliet Middle School, which has more than 1,600 students.

She also noted the numerous construction projects expected to begin throughout the county in the next few years that have not made an impact on the district yet.

Hall said if the doors to the new high school opened tomorrow, it would have 1,507 students – all from the county’s northwest corner population. He noted Willoughby Station, rumored to have a lessened impact on the district’s enrollment than recent years, currently has 300 students. 

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