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Parents react to Hamilton County school board member's suggestion to raise taxes

As a small business owner, Catherine Melissa serves on the County's Chamber of Commerce. She thinks the extra money needs to come from private donors.

One member of the Hamilton County School board says there's no way to meet all the needs of the system without a tax increase.

Joe Smith says the projects up for debate are not a "wish list" but rather a needs list.

Cariuna Ellison is in 5th grade at the Chattanooga Charter school of excellence. She says her classes are fascinating.

"I always know there is going to be something new to think about and learn," she said.

Her attentiveness is not limited to the classroom.

"I was at the school council meeting last night, and I was listening," Ellison said.

The school board didn't pass a budget in that meeting Thursday night.

However, Ellison's mother and other advocates came before the board to talk about how to fund more school nurses, facilities that need maintenance, in addition to updated technology and art programs.

The County's finance department says the County's growth has given them $9,000,000 more to work with this year. However, that leaves a $24,000,000 gap in the money the board has to work with and what it needs to complete all of the projects on their list.

Last night, Joe Smith spoke about the only way he sees those needs being filled.

"The county commission needs to just bite the bullet and go ahead and commit to a property tax increase in my opinion," Smith said.

But parents and taxpayers aren't all jumping to that conclusion.

As a small business owner, Catherine Melissa serves on the County's Chamber of Commerce. She thinks the extra money needs to come from private donors.

"There's absolutely no reason with all of this new business development and economical growth coming in that the businesses wouldn't want to play a part funding programs or any way donate money to the school," she said. "These are children that are going to be able to go and work for them. So it’s an investment in themselves and the community as a whole."

The county commission ultimately holds the purse strings for the tax dollars that go to education.

When it comes time to present the budget, MayorJim Coppinger will make suggestions.

"It's going to be a focal point of what we are doing in this year's budget-- public education," he said.

Coppinger wouldn't give us a yes or no when we asked if he would suggest a tax increase, until he sees the budget the school board presents.

According to an audit of the County, the school portion of the county budget has increased 34 percent over the last ten years due to growth.

The school board will meet again on Thursday to try to come to an agreement on a balanced budget.

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