|Wheel tax increase could fund new LHS|
|Friday, May 8, 2009|
By CONNIE ESH
If Wilson County can build a new Lebanon High School for $50 million, a $25 wheel tax would pay the bond back, according to county Finance Director Ron Gilbert.
And Budget Committee Chair Bernie Ash said he would vote to send a wheel tax to the public on a referendum.
“I’m not saying I’d vote in commission for a wheel tax,” Ash said in an interview Thursday. “I’m saying I’d vote for a referendum for a wheel tax.”
The tax would have to be designated to go to debt service, since it can only be used directly for schools for one year, but debt service is what pays the bond back when the county borrows to build a school.
Ash said the reason he would only vote for a referendum is because of conflicts over wheel taxes in the past.
County Director of Schools Mike Davis said he thinks now would be a good time to build, not in spite of the economy, but because of it.
“Because of the economy the cost of building is down, and the cost of credit is at an all time low, other counties are taking advantage of that to build schools,” he said.
Whatever solution is worked out, Davis said he thinks the situation has reached “critical mass.”
The old section of LHS is having serious problems with water due to recent heavy rains, he noted.
“If a building’s in an area where water tends to pond and seep in, mold will grow,” he said. “We had a conference with our cleaning service at noon (Thursday), and they will be working hard to do extra cleaning.”
The school system also had maintenance crews in the building for the past week trying to abate the water leaking into classrooms and offices. Thursday morning before classes started they replaced all the damaged ceiling tiles.
“It’s obviously something we are very concerned about,” Davis said.
But he added “Other than that, I don’t know what to do other than tear it down or shut it down.”
If the problems can’t be solved, he said, “it isn’t a suitable place for human inhabitants of any age over any period of time.”
“I hate to spend millions of dollars to replace a roof on a section of the building we are just going to tear down,” he said.
The building, which will face major renovations whenever the county funds a new high school, is more than 50 years old in the section with the serious issues.
Davis said when the new school is ready, the oldest section will need to be torn down and replaced. “We need to raise the elevation of that section of the school to avoid these problems in the future.”
Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at