County gets three options to fund new high school

Matt Masters • Jul 27, 2018 at 7:34 PM

The Wilson County Commission held a budget workshop Thursday where county finance director Aaron Maynard laid out options to pay for a new high school in Mt. Juliet.

Maynard laid out three options to pay for the school, effectively dubbed Green Hill High School on North Mt. Juliet Road. He said each option would produce an additional $1.5 million per year to service the debt, maintain a strong fund balance and maintain the county’s AA+ bond rating.

The options included:

  • • the commission to propose a referendum on a sales tax increase to be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot to be considered by voters.
    • the commission could raise the adequate facilities tax by about $900 per home. The adequate facilities tax, which is a tax on all new homes built in Wilson County, is currently $3,000 per home.
    • the commission could transfer $1 million from the general fund and then do a penny swap with the school system, where 1.23 cents from the tax rate would be taken away from the school system in the form of growth or its property tax rate. It would then be replaced with $420,000 from the county’s sales tax fund.

The options were based on a report issued by Ashley McAnulty, senior vice president of Stephens Financial Services in Nashville.

McAnulty described options with the only viable choice to pay less principle in the 2020-2025 period. Then, as the existing debt rolls off, the principle payments could be accelerated. This would be a cost of about $4 million per year from 2020-2025, which would then accelerate to about $8 million from 2026-2041. It would mean the county would need an additional $1.5 million annually to make the plan work, which resulted in the three options Maynard presented.

Commissioners Jeff Joines and Sara Patton supported an increase to the adequate facilities tax, as it would be less of an impact on current residents and allow the growth of the county to pay for the needs from that growth. Joines also said it was a $2,000 increase in the adequate facilities tax that allowed Mt. Juliet High School to be built and open in 2008.

Several commissioners, including Jerry McFarland, Sue Vanatta and Diane Weathers, said they were still thinking on the issue and going over the numbers, as the complexity of the issue was really laid out during the meeting.

Commissioner Frank Bush also addressed the complexities involved and questioned the need to even pay $106 million for a 2000-student high school. He said other high schools were previously built for less.

At a joint meeting Monday night, the Wilson County Budget and Education committees heard details on the proposed new Green Hill High School in Mt. Juliet.

Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall laid out the details of the new school project.

Hall said the location was chosen because of its proximity to students and families as determined on a heat map, and the 79-acre campus would not disturb a small cemetery on the purchased property.

Hall also talked about the price tag. He said the four bids on the high school were between $86.7 million and $101.5 million, and the total construction of the school came in at just more than $106 million and the total project at just more than $111 million. Hall also said the project cost would be $206.42 per square foot, which nearly aligned with the estimated $206 per square foot.

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