New Alcoa high school to require tax increase
By Iva Butler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Alcoa residents are facing an increase either in the property tax or sales tax to pay for a new high school.
Those were the options mentioned Thursday by Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson in a meeting of the Alcoa Public Building Authority.
The group met informally to learn about the responsibility of the PBA and the status of the high school project.
Johnson said raising the sales tax from 9.25 to 9.75 percent would be the more palatable idea.
To raise the sales tax would require a referendum, and he said Maryville and Blount County would likely chose to also have referendums.
“That way all the money would not come from Alcoa residents,” he said.
Johnson also said Alcoa School Board would like to have former Director of Schools Tom Shamblin be named executive director of the high school building project.
He would be the PBA staff person working with Barry Brooks of Lawler-Wood Inc., who will be facilitator to deliver the project for the school board. Johnson said Shamblin worked well with the city commission when he was director of schools. He retired last year and is working part time as director of finance for schools.
“If we do get a state-of-the-art high school,” there will be four schools, Johnson said, primary K-2, elementary 3-5, middle 6-8 and high school 9-12.
The middle school would move to the current high school, elementary to the middle school and primary would be in the existing elementary school.
Recession not over
Meanwhile, Johnson said the city “has not yet 100 percent recovered from the recession.”
ALCOA Inc. is the biggest city property taxpayer and closure of the South Plant will likely lower that tax collection, he said.
Except for that closure, “all the stars seem to be lining up to make this thing a go,” Johnson said.
The city has had over a year of positive sales tax results, with November 2011 (last tax data available) being up 16 percent over 2010.
“It was 2008 when we started dreaming about this project,” he said.
He said the bottom fell out of the market in 2008, the year the PBA was created with the goal of building a high school.
He said the city wants to move fairly quickly. “We think we need to take advantage of the building market. Things have gotten as low as they are going to get. There are hungry contractors, so it is a good time to build.”
A PBA is an easier way to get a project done, he said. The body does not have to take the lowest bid but can select the best bid for the project.
Alcoa City Commission and school board will hold a work session to discuss the issue at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 27 in Alcoa Municipal Building.
Johnson said they have an agreement with West Plant developers Kinsey Probasco Hays of Chattanooga on acquiring the property, which is adjacent to the present school property.
RFPs sent out
Brooks said requests have already been sent out requesting proposals to contractors on the project. He wants to have the contractor on board by mid-February.
The city wants the school completed in July 2014. Construction should start in August, he said.
As project facilitator, “we’re going to get you the most competitive bid in the market place based on what you want,” he said.
He said they will show the city what the project will look like and how much it will cost in March.
The school is expected to be 160,000 to 165,000 square feet.
Brooks was facilitator on Maryville Municipal Center, Clayton Center for the Arts and Coulter Grove Intermediate School.
The Alcoa PBA is composed of Chairman Dennis J. “Denny” Mayes, Richard “Dick” Ray, John H. Rochelle, Dan M. Tyler, Bobby L. Perkinson, Lynn Waters and Cheryl Flowers.