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Commissioners Hear Putnam Schools Growth & Maintenance Needs

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Commissioners Hear Putnam Schools Growth & Maintenance Needs

Putnam County Commissioners got the School System’s syllabus for this year’s budget, the system’s anticipated growth needs, and capital project priorities during a joint session Monday night.

Commissioner Darren Wilson said he appreciated the overview which included a facilities and maintenance priority list through the 2028 school year.

“I do like the fact that they’ve got given us a five-year plan,” Wilson said. “I think Mayor (Randy) Porter has gone out there and given each department that request to give us a five-year so we can budget for that, so we can plan for that. I think as our growing community, people come to live in this wonderful community, schools are going to grow. We’ve got issues we got to deal with. Taxes are necessary evil, but we want to make sure that especially the protection of the kids that they’ve talked about tonight. I’m all about that.”

Director of Schools Corby King said the list of facilities and maintenance needs is very fluid, but it showed commissioners what the system would like to tackle in each of the next five years.

Commissioner Kim Bradford said the county’s growth showed up in five to seven percent elementary school population increases over the next decade.

“I fully understand the needs that we face in this county with our children, the education system, the safety, and all aspects,” Bradford said. “So I’m hoping, moving forward, we can find a way that is equitable for the taxpayers and this community.”

King outlined the school system’s 2023-2024 budget and how the system plans to spend roughly $12 million in additional funding through the new state education formula. More than $8 million will go to personnel expansion and raises.

“I think the first thing that comes out of the presentation tonight is that the school board is not going to be asking the county commission for any additional funds this year, which, given the news that we’ve already gotten in the county general fund, that’s a good thing for us,” Commissioner Chris Cassetty said. “But I think the second thing is we’ve got some long term planning we need to do. We’ve got a lot of growth as we hear about all the time that certainly impacts the school system.”

Commissioners heard the system’s preferred plan to deal with anticipated elementary school growth: converting the current Park View School to a Pre-K Center for Cookeville, building three to four new classrooms at Cane Creek and Northeast, and renovating Baxter Primary and Sycamore. That plan would create space for between 500 and 600 students and would be cheaper than building a new elementary school.

King asked commissioners if they had objections to him beginning talks with Porter about a new bond issue of some $25-30 million. No commissioners voiced concerns. The county’s bonding capacity is tapped out through roughly 2027 with the construction of the new Park View School and the Justice Center expansion.

King noted the school board would like commissioners to pick up six HVAC projects next school year. The system had planned to pay for that using ESSER money, but the Park View roof cam first.

“It had to be done, it’s in bad shape,” King said.

The county has handled roofs as part of its capital projects funding previously, but could not pay for the roof this year with its current capital budget. King said the school board used the ESSER money to replace the roof with an understanding the county would step up when it had capital projects funds available.

Cassetty said he liked the give-and-take happening now with departments working together to understand the total needs of the county.

“(I) think we have a really good relationship with the school system now,” Cassetty said. “And we do need to work together because at the end of the day, it’s what’s better for our community and specifically for our kids.”

A total of 21 commissioners signed up for the work session at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus Monday night.


The post Commissioners Hear Putnam Schools Growth & Maintenance Needs appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.