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Committees OK $1.5 million for new high school

Xavier Smith • Nov 9, 2017 at 9:27 PM

The Wilson County Budget and Education committees approved $1.5 million for Wilson County Schools to conduct design services for a potential new high school in Mt. Juliet.

The design authorization does not signify the groups’ commitment to spend $110 million for a new high school, which is the estimated cost. Earlier this year, the Budget Committee took no action on the district’s needs assessment list, which included a proposed $110 million new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School.

Wilson County finance director Aaron Maynard said it would cost an additional 12-18 cents on the property tax rate to fund a new high school in Mt. Juliet, dependent upon how the debt payment is structured.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said the county was on schedule with the district’s building plan, introduced two years ago, and Thursday’s $1.5 million commitment would keep the county on par with the plans if the commission agrees to fund the Mt. Juliet high school in the first half of next year.

“I reached out to [Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright] and [Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall] and asked them if there’s a way to take money from all of those projects that we are in the middle of or completed – it’s discretionary money – and put that toward design fees,” Hutto said.

Hutto said Maynard noted the county could use funds in the special purpose school tax fund and replenish the money through the bonds for the schools. Hutto also outlined a plan for discussion next year.

He said he would bring information with details about the estimated $110 million price tag to commissioners in January, followed by presentations in February and March on possible funding mechanisms through potential tax increases from various sources.

“In May, you would know everything and can sit down and talk about them and make a decision. At that time, they would be done with the design phase, and it would be able to go out to bid,” Hutto said.

The timeline would leave about 26 months for construction before the targeted opening in 2020.

Maynard reiterated additional funding mechanisms are necessary for the school’s 2020 opening.

“This all comes down to a funding mechanism. You all know that. It comes down to what does it take in terms of an adequate facilities tax, property tax, wheel tax or whatever form of tax you want to take. We know, as we sit here today, we can’t fund another school without another revenue source,” Maynard said.

Maynard also reiterated the $1.5 million for design services did not mean a commitment to $110 million for the new high school, which Budget Committee chairman Mike Justice said is highly unlikely to be passed by the Wilson County Commission.

“In the long run, we’re going to decide what our number that we can afford to do is, and it’s up to you guys to build a school for it or cut off what you have to,” Justice said.

Wright and Hall said the design team, which consists of representatives from Civil Site Design Group and Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris Architects, would create several different options for the site. 

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