Tax increase for Hamilton County means $100 million for schools

A student at CSLA reads during class. CLSA number two on the Hamilton County Board of Education's list for getting a new building.  (Image: WTVC)

Hamilton County Schools will get $100 million from tax payers, but they don't know what to do with it yet.

Monday, the County Commission approved Mayor Jim Coppinger's plan for a property tax increase he says will help the system with its needs.

The money will be used for capital projects, and will require the school board's approval. But Chairman of the Board Dr. Steve Highlander says he doesn't know how or where the money will be spent and isn't aware of any specific plans.

Soddy-Daisy parent Lindsey Coleman went to a regularly scheduled PTA meeting today, and says she the extra money will prove beneficial.

"I think all of the children and my children especially will benefit from this money," said Lindsey Coleman.

Coleman's two youngest kids go to McConnell Elementary. Coleman's vision for their education goes way beyond the classroom - it's about their overall well being.

"McConnell actually does not have a gym," said Coleman. "And that's what I advocate for there is to get a gym built for health and wellness so our kids can do PE in an actual gym and not a classroom."

Other PTA moms - like Kristen Wingo - say they want to see new schools built with the money.

"Harrison Elementary is definitely one," said Kristen Wingo. "I'm from that area so I know that it does need to be rebuilt."

Wingo says updated buildings mean a better atmposhere for learning. The county and the school board make no promises about where the money will go, but Harrison Elementary and CSLA are numbers one and two on the list for a new school.

At CSLA - the school is so packed - students sometimes learn and work in the hallways.

"We are out of space," said CLSA Principal Krystal Scarbrough, as she pointed out chairs in the hallway. 'We have multiple teachers sharing classrooms, one classroom with two teachers and double the amount of students."

Scarbrough says the aging school building is also a problem. The front steps at CSLA are cracked, water seeps in when it rains and paint is peeling.

She says if they get a new building, those problems will be solved, and they'll be able to teach more students, and more than triple their enrollment.

"The waitlist is about 700 students for just first grade through the sixth grade," said Scabrough.

While they wait for the county and school board to come up with a plan for their tax dollars, parents like Lindsay Coleman the McConnell Elementary mom, encourages others to speak up.

"I'm hoping that each parent will voice the needs at each school," said Coleman.

The tax increase also means all schools with get a million dollars for supplies, to be shared among the district's 79 schools.

A County spokesperson says Mayor Coppinger and Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson are continuing conversations on how the money will be spent.

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