Williamson Co. debates raising taxes to pay for new schools - WSMV News 4

Williamson Co. debates raising taxes to pay for new schools

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Williamson County leaders have approved plans to build 10 new schools in five years to keep up with extreme growth and the number of students enrolling.

The cost of the growth and new schools will come at the taxpayers’ expense.

“People love to come here because we have great schools, but the taxes paid on residential development doesn’t cover the cost of the burden,” said Williamson County Commissioner Todd Kaestner of the 9th district.

On Feb. 6, voters will decide if they want to increase the sales tax half a percent to help pay for new schools.

Williamson County is expected to get 20,000 new students by 2028, and the commission approved a $427 million plan to build schools for them. News 4 asked what it means for families already living there.

”It would mean less crowding in the schools than currently have,” said Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney. “And if we have schools that operate effectively and efficiently, then it means we will continue to produce the outcomes that our parents have grown accustomed to and their property values will continue to increase.”

The county commission approved a residential impact fee a couple of years ago that collects money from people buying new homes in Williamson County to set the money aside for schools. But officials can’t touch it.

“There are eight home builders who have contested that in court, and so we are unable to use the roughly $18-20 million a year that we are collecting on the impact fee,” Kaestner said.

That case could go to trial later this year. If the county wins the case, then officials would be able to use the money. So, for now, the only other option to pay for the schools would be to raise property taxes on homeowners, which the county commission doesn’t want to do.

“The reality of it is as families move into Williamson County, we have to build additional schools. We have to serve those students, and we’re going to have to pay for them,” Looney said.

If the referendum on the sales tax to help schools is voted down, county commissioners said they will have to figure out another option to get the money needed for schools.

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