After some uncertainty, Monday night the County Commission approved an intent to fund the construction of a new K-5 school in Brentwood.
Last month Williamson County Schools (WCS) announced it was closing by March 15 an $8.6 million purchase of 86-acres of land in Brentwood with money previously approved by the commission.
This month, WCS was asking for $15 million to cover design and construction, and keep the school, which will be on 9714 Split Log Road, on schedule for a fall 2018 opening.
However, after the Budget Committee last Wednesday night voted 5-0 to defer a vote on approval, and the possibility that the project would be delayed seemed real.
” I think as you contemplate how to proceed moving forward, I feel compelled to remind you that we anticipate having up to 58,201 to 59,656 new students providing a need for an additional 17 to 21 schools,” WCS Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney told the commissioners Monday.
WCS currently has 38,445 students.
The commission then voted 20-1 in favor of the funding request, after pleas from Dr. Looney and others in the public comments portion of the meeting, to keep the school on track.
The intent to fund will not cost the county any money yet. Looney said that WCS will probably not need a bond issued until fall, due to about $7 million left from the money bonded to pay for the land purchase.
Originally, WCS wanted $30 million to build a combination elementary and middle school but halved it to focus on the elementary school. The elementary school will be modeled similar to the design of Clovercroft Elementary and is expected to open in time for the 2018-19 school year. A determination on the use of the rest of the acreage will be made at a later time.
As far as new funding, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The district anticipates needing nearly $600 million over the next 10 years to pay for the needed new schools.
The county, which is the funding body for all of that, however, wants to be sure it knows how to pay for the new schools before it starts approving the funds for them.
“Under the current model of funding, as early as next year we would need a new source of revenue,” County Mayor Rogers Anderson said. “If we approve the funding we would need to raise taxes or find another source, under the current way of funding.”
The county and school board plan to get together to discuss options.
“We all understand there are ways to lessen the impact i.e. property taxes but we all have to be on the same page on how to fund not just $15 million but $500 million,” Anderson said. “The deferral was a move to take a let’s wait and see here. I think we can get there. We just have to send a message loud and clear when we approve something that we also have to pay for it. ”