Oak Ridge school officials want to keep a few hundred thousand dollars raised each year under an Anderson County sales tax increase approved in 2006.
But city officials want to continue using the money to pay down the debt on the $66 million renovation of the Oak Ridge High School.
The financial tug-of-war is expected to continue tonight as City Council members decide whether to ask education officials to wait a year to allow further negotiations between the two sides.
City officials are considering an additional step: using money that would ordinarily be distributed to the schools to instead help pay down the high school debt. About $250,000 could be at stake.
The city’s resolution is apparently in response to a school system proposal to withhold a portion of sales tax revenues collected outside of Oak Ridge under the 2006 county tax increase.
In a months-long dispute, school officials say they should be able to keep those revenues generated outside the city. Until recently, all the money had been used to help pay down the debt on the ORHS renovation.
However, municipal officials say the county sales tax increase,Â approved by voters in rural areas and Norris, effectively took away money from the city. They think the new county revenues, including those generated outside the city, should be used for debt repayments.
Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said the resolution to be considered tonight would give the school system credit for the money it does pass on to the city.
He said the resolution would give the high school debt payments top priority, ensuring they are made before funds are distributed for other educational uses.
“The city is required to meet bond requirements through its existing bond agreements on the project,” Watson said. “In essence, this is the bond rating of the city that is in jeopardy and the overall rating of its citizens and is the first priority of city expenditures.”
Tonight’s City Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Courtroom.
A previous story on proposed changes to the ORHS debt payments is available here.