Sumner County leaders are expected to vote on Monday to borrow another $103.6 million in the form of general obligation bonds in order to partially fund a new criminal justice facility as well as supplement previous funding for two new schools north of Long Hollow Pike.
The proposal comes a year after county leaders voted in November 2018 to issue a $103 million bond for the construction of the schools - Liberty Creek High School and Liberty Creek Elementary School.
At a joint meeting of the financial management and budget committees on Dec. 9, Finance Director David Lawing explained that of the new $103.6 million bond, $16.8 million would be used for the new Liberty Creek schools campus while $86.7 million would go toward Phase 1 of a new justice center.
The county’s current debt is at $223.6 million, Lawing noted. The new bond is scheduled to be paid off in 2040, and will include $27.7 million in interest.
School Board approves $104.6M bid
The Sumner County Board of Education approved plans for a new three-school campus off of Upper Station Camp Creek Road in October 2018. Director of Schools Del Phillips estimated then that Phase 1 of the plan that included the high and elementary schools would cost around $99.5 million. A middle school is estimated to be built in 2023.
On Nov. 19 of this year, School Board members voted unanimously to accept a bid submitted by Robert S. Biscan & Company to construct the two schools for $104.6 million. The bid includes six more classrooms than previously planned for the elementary school.
The School Board also voted to approve a request by architects Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris for $754,125 more in design fees.
“Based on the bids, it requires some additional funding,” Phillips told board members. “So we’re hopeful the county will be able to fund the additional dollars to make the bid happen. We feel good that the county commission will do that.”
On Monday, Financial Management Committee Chairman Jerry Becker asked Lawing to explain why a new bond of $16.8 million was needed for the new schools.
Lawing said the money was needed for additional construction costs as well as for equipping the schools with things like technology and furniture.
Phillips said after the meeting that the additional money will also go toward items like security cameras, speaker systems for football and softball fields and furniture for both schools.
He added he doesn’t anticipate having to request any more money for the two schools from the county commission.
“This should be it for the two schools,” said Phillips.
During the joint meeting, District 11 County Commissioner Jeremy Mansfield asked if borrowing the money would max out the county’s future debt capacity that may affect building the middle school or Phase 2 of the justice center.
Both Lawing and Budget Committee Chairman Chris Taylor said that the county would be able to borrow additional funds in the future.
“We’ll still be able to borrow money,” said Taylor. “It won’t zero out our debt capacity.”
Mansfield also suggested that recently purchased land by the county and school board behind the Sumner County Administration Building be sold to offset some of the debt.
Commission Chairman Scott Langford said that it wasn’t within the Financial Management Committee’s purview to make that decision.
The financial management committee passed the resolution to issue the bond with Mansfield being the only no vote. The budget committee passed it unanimously.
When asked after the meeting why he voted no, Mansfield said he thinks tax payers deserve better answers as to why the new schools are so expensive, and that more should be done to see if costs can be cut.
“Also, David Lawing stated that our debt service payment will now be over $34 million a year,” Mansfield added. “And imagine, just eight years ago our county commissioners passed a resolution to be debt free by 2023.”
The full county commission will vote on the resolution at its next meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 16.