The Putnam County Budget Committee recommended building the upper grade wing of the new Park View School Monday and did it without a property tax increase.
The full commission will consider a $16.5 million 25-year bond in a special called meeting next week. The funding option was presented by Mayor Randy Porter. It delays the interest and principal payments a few years to ensure the county has enough cash flow to cover anticipated capital projects next year.
Committee Chair Ben Rodgers said the funding option protects the county from borrowing for capital projects if sales tax revenue drops.
“That’s one of the reasons why we came up with this other option about delaying the principal for a couple years to save that cash in the bank in case we need it,” Rodgers said. “There’s capital projects that we have to get done. We can pay cash for them, or if cash gets low, we finance those and we have historically not done that.”
Commissioner Vinnie Facinto said he sees the funding mechanism as a good option but expressed concern about future school needs.
“Do you as a school board feel that this 5-8 is an absolute needed thing to borrow $16 million dollars for or would you rather wait in two or three years and come back and ask for money for a new high school and figure out how to do your 5-8 grades with what you have?” Facinto said. “That’s really what I think I would like to hear from the school board.”
School Board Chair Kim Cravens said a new high school is not the need right now. Cravens said the project would answer capacity issues for middle schools across the county.
“This school is basically going to be a feeder to itself,” Cravens said. “Each one of these are going to be 600 a piece and feed into itself. That leaves the other middle schools with room for growth. The other thing I would say is that this school is all connected. So if you don’t build it now…. I was at Algood when we built Algood Elementary, and that was no fun being a part of a construction zone.”
“It just doesn’t make sense to build another high school right now, and we don’t have that pressing need,” Cravens said. “Even though people ask that. They ask that because they think Cookeville is so big and they don’t want their kids going.”
After discussion over the proposal, the committee was not going to make a recommendation. Committee Member Dale Moss said he felt like the full commission should discuss as a whole. Committee Member Chris Cassetty challenged the motion and said it is the committee’s duty to make a recommendation.
“Certainly the full commission has to hear this and needs to hear this, but the seven of us that are still on the committee we got put on this committee to make tough decisions,” Cassetty said. “Back in May, June, July we made tough decisions and made recommendations to the full commission and we need to do that tonight.”
The special called meeting is set to take place Monday December 12th at 6:00 p.m. It will be rescheduled to the following Tuesday only if the Putnam County Christmas Parade is rained out this weekend. The rain date is also the 12th.
Commissioners will have to keep in mind several upcoming capital projects as they vote. Next year, a $4.5 million transfer station project will be needed as well as a new roof for the old Parkview School.