School board considers debt proposal rejected by Council

It’s already been informally rejected by municipal officials, but the Oak Ridge school board will still consider a proposal that would allow them to keep more money collected from county sales taxes—and require the city to come up with extra cash to pay for the renovation of the high school.

The proposal, which the Oak Ridge Board of Education will consider tonight, would allow the schools to keep a portion of more than $700,000 in revenues generated by a 2006 increase in the Anderson County sales tax rate. Until recently, all the money had been used to help pay down the debt on the $66 million renovation of the Oak Ridge High School.

But, in a months-old dispute, school officials argue they ought to be able to keep that portion of the new county sales tax revenues generated outside the city of Oak Ridge.

In response, City Council members contend the sales tax increase in the county essentially took away money from Oak Ridge, so the new county revenues, including those generated outside the city, should be used for debt repayments.

Municipal officials have estimated that the change in the high school debt payments could cost city property tax payers an extra $10 million during the next three decades. And during a recent Council work session, members suggested that picking up those additional costs could require either an increase in the property tax rate or cuts in municipal services.

The debt repayment proposal will be considered during a 7 p.m. meeting today at the School Administration Building on New York Avenue.

Also on tonight’s agenda is an update on proposed repairs at Woodland Elementary School.

The repairs could cost between $800,000 and $1 million, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said. The schools have $500,000 available for the work and have asked the city to contribute $500,000.

The renovation project, scheduled to be complete before students return to school in August, could include a new roof and exterior metal paneling as well as foundation repairs.

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