published Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Committee will consider returning funds to Hamilton County Schools

At Wednesday's Hamilton County Commission meeting, commissioners Warren Mackey, left, and Tim Boyd look over a list of commissioners assigned to discuss whether to return certain PILOT funds to the control of the schools.
At Wednesday's Hamilton County Commission meeting, commissioners Warren Mackey, left, and Tim Boyd look over a list of commissioners assigned to discuss whether to return certain PILOT funds to the control of the schools.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
Audio clip

Hamilton County Commission meeting - Sept. 21, 2011

BY THE NUMBERS

PILOT funds collected in the 2010 tax year

* $4,599,514.10 total payment to county and schools

* $1,633,444.07 distributed to the county

* $1,712,590.80 distributed directly to schools (pre-2010 agreements)

* $1,149,999.55 collected for schools held in county general fund (2010 to-date agreements)

* $45,335.82 distributed to schools from "schools-only" agreements

* $61,143.86 distributed to Collegedale from "Collegedale-only" agreements

Source: Hamilton County Trustee's Office

A committee of five Hamilton County commissioners will consider whether to return to the school system control of as much as $3 million a year.

Commissioner Chester Bankston asked the body to consider reversing its 8-1 February decision to hold some payment-in-lieu-of-taxes education funds for maintenance and construction.

Bankston said schools Superintendent Rick Smith and Board of Education Chairman Mike Evatt told him they needed the capital funds. "The capital money for maintenance got cut about a million and a half [dollars] this year," he said.

The average age of the county's schools is 44 years, said Bankston, a former schools maintenance employee who recalled putting "Band-Aids on [schools] because we didn't have any money to work with."

Warren Mackey, chairman of the commission's education committee, said he needed more information.

Commissioner Mitch McClure recommended sending the matter to Mackey's committee for further review. The education committee includes commissioners Tim Boyd, Jim Fields and Bankston.

Chairman Larry Henry said Commissioner Fred Skillern, chairman of the finance committee, should be part of the review.

"I certainly don't want to micromanage our school board," Henry said.

Commissioner Joe Graham opposed the move, saying the PILOT funds should remain with the county.

"The reason we decided to hold it is because we had no money to set aside for the growth and the wonderful problems that are coming with the growth," Graham said.

The schools have presented no plan to show the money will go toward capital projects and not into the general fund, he said.

"There's been no reason that the schools can't come right through those two doors there and present us with a project, which they have not done," Graham said.

The county collected about $1.15 million in the 2010 tax year in PILOT agreements governed by the County Commission. Collections for agreements originating before 2010, about $1.7 million last year, went straight to the schools.

County Finance Director Louis Wright said that once the companies with recent agreements are fully operational, estimates show the commission will control about $3 million in PILOT funds a year.

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about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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