Knox Co. School Projects: Where Will The Money Come From?

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Knoxville (WVLT) - The New West Knox County High school will be fully funded, but other county projects could end up paying the price.

As we first told you Monday, the Knox County Commission approved six million more dollars out of the Capital Budget to build the school, bringing the total amount to $50 million.

But where does that money come from?

Over the next five years, Knox County plans to construct a new elementary school in the southwest part of Knox County, and renovate Bearden Elementary, Powell Middle School, Carter Middle School, Inskip Elementary, Ball Camp Elementary, Farragut High School, New Hopewell and Gap Creek Elementary, and Gibbs High Vocational.

But at least one commissioner says there won't be enough money now for all those projects.

"It's the same old political bull. I mean, that's a hard way of putting it, but that's what it is," Knox County Commissioner John Mills says the school board is playing games with the county's money.

"It is 'I want and you get in line,'" Mills says Carter Elementary School has been in line for a new building for years. "The school board spent over a million dollars last year to buy property on Straw Plains Pike and turned around eight months later and took Carter Elementary plum off of the capital plan."

The criteria used to determine whether a school is put on the Capital Improvement Plan is: capacity, economics, facility condition, functionality, growth and zoning implications.

"To put even a dollar toward the high school impacts other projects we have for next year," but School Board Chair Karen Carson says building a new Western Knox County high school for 2100 students is no doubt much needed. "It's very hard when you don't have seats for students to say that that's not a priority need."

But Mills says he can't justify the West Knox high school construction to the Carter community.

"You're not gonna get a new Carter Elementary school because a $40 million project in West Knoxville went to $50 million and could even go higher before it's ever finished," Commissioner Mills says.

"There's no one that's saying Carter doesn't need a new school, there's no one that, you know, we're looking at a number of schools that have needs," says Carson.

Carson says that's why they're conducting a facilities study to find out what needs to be cut or added in the schools.

"They don't need to be out in the construction business, in my opinion, they need to be educating," says Mills.

Mayor Mike Ragsdale suggested the facilities study and says he's not sure right now how long the research will take.

There are a lot of school needs out there and it comes down to giving our children the education they deserve.