ROCKWOOD (WATE) - The Roane County school system is in a budget crisis, with a shortfall of more than $1.5 million.
School officials are asking the county commission to pass a property tax increase to make up the difference.
If it doesn't pass, the superintendent says the school board may have to reduce the number of school resource officers, cut extracurricular activities or close a high school, possibly Midway.
The opinions are very strong. Some residents tell 6 News the 14 cent property tax increase is well worth it to support a child's education. Others say school leaders can make better use of the funds they already have and also find other areas to cut.
Lori Jones, a parent and small business owner, opened The Lunch Box about a month ago. Jones does not support a property tax increase.
"I think it's a little ridiculous. We already pay enough taxes as it is and it's hard for us to start a business when they keep just raising the taxes on us," said Jones.
Roane County resident Taylor Cuny supports the tax increase in an effort to support the schools.
"I know my little girl, I want her to go through school and get every bit of education she possibly can and that won't happen without the money that's needed," said Cuny.
Roane County Schools Superintendent Gary Aytes says because less money is being sent from the state and the state is mandating online testing, the school budget is $1.582 million short.
To be able to keep all the teachers and current programs, the superintendent is asking the county commission for the funding in the form of a 14 cent property tax increase.
The budget committee has denied the request. The full commission will vote in July.
Commissioner Ray Cantrell agrees with the budget committee's decision.
"They rejected it. Had they not rejected it, I'd have to vote against it, because I feel there are a lot of cuts that have yet to be taken care of," said Cantrell.
If the tax increase does not pass the school board will have to make cuts, possibly reducing the number of school resource officers.
Also Aytes says they may choose to not buy text books, cut drivers education, literacy and student support programs. Teachers may lose extra pay for coaching or Midway High School may close.
"The only other way to cut is to close a school," said Aytes.
The Roane County Tea Party has been campaigning against the property tax increase saying it will put an extra burden on the residents and hurt business owners. The tea party co-chair says the school system must downsize instead of raising taxes.
If you'd like to weigh in, there will be a public forum on the budget Monday at 6:30 PM at the Roane County Courthouse. The county commissioners will vote on the budget July 8.
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