A new high school and how to fund it is at the forefront of Wilson County commissioners’ minds.
Wilson County finance director Aaron Maynard said the commissioners are expected to take out $94.3 million in bonds to pay for Green Hill High School, a new school planned in Mt. Juliet. The school is expected to cost about $107 million.
The county has an AA-plus rating from Standard and Poor’s and that will allow it to borrow at a premium and save $12 million, Maynard said. Payback of those bonds will commence in 2019 and be finalized in 2041.
Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said to help pay back the bonds, the commissioners have the option to take $1 million from the general-purpose fund and $500,000 from the special-purpose tax fund, which is funded through sales taxes.
The general-purpose fund money comes from various areas, including property tax and permitting fees.
“We’d like to build the school without raising any kind of tax,” Hutto said.
Commissioners have three other options on the table as proposed in a budget workshop Thursday to help pay back the bonds if they don’t want to use the general-purpose fund and special-purpose tax fund.
Other options include an increase in the adequate facilities tax, which is something builders pay when plans or permits are submitted to build homes. Currently, the tax is $3,000 per home. To help pay back the fund, taking money from the general-purpose and special-purpose funds, the cost would rise $890 to $3,890 per home.
In 2001, the commissioners instituted the adequate facilities tax at $1,000. In 2005, they raised it to $2,000 to help pay for Mt. Juliet High School.
Hutto said increases in the adequate facilities tax is something the commissioners could look at in the future.
“But it’s tough to raise taxes if we have money in the bank,” he noted.
If they don’t want to take money from the adequate facilities tax, commissioners also have the option to increase the wheel tax by $25.
The commissioners could also choose to increase the county’s sales tax by 1/2 cent to the state maximum of 9.75 percent, but that would require a referendum and vote of the people.
“I just think that if there is no tax rate increase, that would be best,” Hutto said. “We always like to go with using what we have. I think no tax increase would make the public happy.”
Hutto said the public has other concerns such as the school built next to their home and how the new school would affect Mt. Juliet High School, taking the population away from that school. He said Mt. Juliet High School is currently beyond capacity.
Hutto said Green Hill High School is on par with the timeline presented to the commissioners. The campus will “join W.A. Wright Elementary School’s campus,” he said.
The county was provided a plan for future schools and that includes an $800 million budget. Hutto said the public should not worry about the amount because things often change.
“As needs arise, we continually funding with the money that always comes in,” he said, noting the “commission approves funding as the needs are presented by the school board.”
Hutto also said the commission will not raise taxes to pay for schools if it’s not necessary, even if they’ve been identified as a future need by the school board.
“That’s an astronomical price, and it’s great to be prepared, but we don’t want to tax people for schools that may not be built.”
Wilson County is the third fastest-growing county in Tennessee and has the second-fastest increase in population with students.
Commissioners plan to vote on the issue at an Aug. 20 meeting at 7 p.m. at the Wilson County Courthouse on East Main Street in Lebanon.