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What’s next for a new high school?

Xavier Smith • Aug 22, 2017 at 6:56 PM

Many Wilson County parents and residents have wondered what’s next in terms of a new Wilson County high school after the Wilson County Commission approved its annual budget without allocating any funds for the project.

The commission took no action on the district’s needs assessment list, which included a new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, estimated at $110 million. The Wilson County Budget Committee passed on including the needs assessment list in the county’s annual budget last month.

Wilson County finance director Aaron Maynard said it would cost 12-18 cents on the tax rate to fund the new high school, 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, and any project would likely require a tax increase. 

However, the group tasked Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto to lead the county’s efforts to establish a solid funding mechanism for the high school. 

“I’ll be glad to do that and get with the [Wilson County school board], Education Committee and Budget Committee as a group and just talk about options. Aaron, I’m sure, will work closely, and we’ll bring you back some options on how to do this,” Hutto said.

The Wilson County school board discussed potential rezoning for the county’s four high school earlier this month after the Budget Committee meeting.

“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,” board member Wayne McNeese said during the meeting.

Jennifer Johnson, Wilson County Schools spokesperson, said the district would evaluate its options following Monday’s meeting.

“If it looks like a new school isn’t going to get funded, we’ll have to start figuring out our rezoning plans and holding community meetings with all the key stakeholder groups. In general, we usually start having those community meetings about six months before any changes are made,” Johnson said.

Wilson County Schools Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said rezoning could happen at the school board’s next meeting Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m. A work session scheduled for 5 p.m.

“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 was 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.”

Hutto discussed funding for the new high school earlier this month with the Mt Juliet Chamber of Commerce.

The commission approved a property tax increase last year of 35.17 cents more than the state certified rate. The approved increases included about 17 cents for the school district.

 “It’s a balance between the pressure on you and supply the needs we have. That’s a tough call, and those [commissioners] back there have it,” Hutto said. “The pressure to do that on the back of 35 cents [last year] is tough. The need is there. No question.”

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