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Can We Avoid Building Schools?

Saturday morning there was a Debt Financing Workshop at the Administrative Complex. About half of the County Commission and half of the School Board attended. There were no reporters present. There will be a second workshop on Saturday, April 22.

Yesterday, we shared information on the property tax rate and the share that goes to schools. Below are three proposals (and some commentary) from the Saturday debt workshop.

A few County Commissioners floated ideas to prevent the county from building new schools to accommodate explosive growth.

1) If WCS has schools that aren’t at capacity, why do we need to build new schools? (Kaestner)

Most of the schools with the lowest projected fill rates over the next five years, such as the Fairview schools and Hillsboro, are on the edges of the county. They are not affected by the current rezoning plans because of their distance from the highest-density population areas.


(Click to enlarge.)

Projected 2021-22 Fill Rates (not including the elementary and middle schools on Clayton Arnold or the elementary school on Split Log scheduled to open in Fall 2018)

Elementary Schools – 116%

Middle Schools – 116%

High Schools – 109%

“Most parents would rather have their kid in a portable than have the tax rate raised.” – District 4 Commissioner Kathy Danner, June 2015
“I encourage cities to contribute to transportation and infrastructure needs of the school district. Cities have the obligation to help with infrastructure. Schools contribute to the community’s livability. Schools drive property values up and in turn increase property tax values and eventually revenue in cities.” – District 6 Commissioner Paul Webb, January 2016
“Webb stressed the importance of education in Williamson County, and even said that he would pay a higher property tax if it helped the school district maintain its quality education. ‘We have to [find a way to] raise revenue. A long time ago, we decided to make education a priority and become leader in Tennessee.’ He emphasized that businesses and families move to Williamson County for education.” – District 6 Commissioner Paul Webb, March 2017
“We have a revenue shortage, but everyone comes here because Williamson has a great product. You can raise the fees to have it. But when you skimp on it, that’s when the product fails. I feel confident we are going to find it.” – District 6 Commissioner Paul Webb, April 2017

2) Can we increase the student-teacher ratio? (Sturgeon)

Commissioner Sturgeon has brought this up before.

“One more child per class is not a big price to pay. Maybe we could avoid building a school for a year.” – District 8 Commissioner Barb Sturgeon, April 2015

Tennessee was the subject of an influential class size study in the 80s.

“After four years, it was clear that smaller classes did produce substantial improvement in early learning and cognitive studies.”

The maximum class size for grades K-3 is 25. WCS high school classes average 30 with some advanced classes being smaller.


3) Can we hire consultants to tell us how to save money on schools?

WCS hired Hanover Research to conduct a study about optimal school size in 2016. As a result, the WCSB increased the high school size from 1500-1800 students to 1600-2200 students.

“There has to be some other ways to fund this stuff. There’s a Williamson County Education Foundation up and running, PTOs and other sources.” – District 4 Commissioner Kathy Danner, May 2014
“Maybe we don’t need all the bells and whistles now. Maybe we can add those on. Maybe we can do like people used to do and we build the building and we let the parents or the band boosters contribute. That’s what we did when I grew up. Maybe we can do that again. Heck, we did that with my kids at the Brentwood Civitan.” – District 6 Commissioner Paul Webb, October 2016

Prior to Saturday’s meeting, District 3 County Commissioner David Pair filed a resolution to create a joint K-12 Education Facilities Planning Task Force to collaborate on “funding requests for new and expanded K-12 capital facilities.” The task force would consist of:

• Four members of the Williamson County Commissioners, shall be selected by its Board Chairman and confirmed by the Williamson County Steering Committee • Four Williamson County School Board members, to be appointed by the its School Board Chairman and confirmed by the Steering Committee • The Williamson County Budget Director (or designee) • The WCS Budget Director (or designee)

Pair’s resolution will be on the agenda for consideration at the May 8 County Commission meeting.


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