High school debate continues in Davidson

Jun. 07, 2013 @ 06:38 PM

As petitions continue to move across the county, the Davidson County Board of Commissioners again discussed Thursday ways to fund a proposed $45 million high school in the northern part of the county.
Midway resident Neal Motsinger has circulated a letter calling for commissioners to allocate construction money in the next fiscal year. Principals and parents say the school is needed to relieve overcrowding at North Davidson and Ledford high schools. The new Oak Grove Middle School reduced overcrowding at North Davidson and Ledford middle schools.
“I have been getting these petitions, even at church,” Commissioner Billy Joe Kepley said during discussions on the proposed 2014 county budget. “Some people think I am sending them out. I am not.”
The board debated again offering a referendum this year for either school construction bonds or a possible quarter-cent sales tax hike to raise money for the school. Davidson County owns the proposed school site across from Oak Grove Middle off Hoy Long Road. The site has sewer service.
Commissioners have placed the project in their capital plan, but have not allocated money in the proposed $152 million budget for 2014.
“The funds start to go in for 2015,” said County Manager Robert Hyatt. “We do not know what the final figure will be for the school. We do not have the reserves to do this now.”
Hyatt said commissioners may have to raise more money for the school because the county is getting about half of its former $3.2 million annual share from the state education lottery. The county would set aside $15 million for three consecutive years for the school, according to the Capital Improvement Plan.
A quarter-cent sales tax hike, which would need voter approval in a countywide referendum, would create about $2.2 million annually, said Zeb Hanner, assistant county manager. That revenue would pay the debt service on a $35 million loan for 20 years.
“There is no way to do this without a tax increase,” said Commissioner Larry Potts, who estimated the project could add 5 cents to the property tax rate.
The new high school is the Davidson County Board of Education’s No. 1 capital request, and board members have asked commissioners to join them to review issues and begin the planning for the school.
“The school board is looking for some indication of what we think,” Potts said.
In other action:
• Commissioners voted unanimously to increase the 2014 donation to the Lexington and Thomasville chambers of commerce by $24,000 to boost the “Buy Local” campaign and small business support efforts. The money will come from the general fund. Last month, Burr Sullivan, president of the Lexington Chamber, asked for the increase and Doug Croft, president of the Thomasville chamber, added his support Thursday. The proposed budget includes $3,500 for the chambers.
• The board declined to add 2 cents to the proposed 10-cent per $100 valuation fire district tax rate for Wallburg to support needed building repairs, and on a tie 3-3 vote, failed to approve a $10,000 donation for the Crisis Ministry of Davidson County shelter in Lexington to help deal with a bed bug infestation. The failing vote came after Commissioner Steve Jarvis left the meeting to attend to personal business.