Carter County Budget Committee approves initial funding for new school

CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - It took several motions and many different opinions from commissioners, but Carter County is pushing forward plans for a new middle school.

It's not a done deal yet, but plans are in the works to build Unaka Middle School. Now, the next step meant approving funds for the design phase.

In 1992, Tennessee recommended that a new school be built in Stoney Creek. Years later, Unaka Middle School is finally on the drawing board.

And while budget commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday night that a school is necessary, deciding how to pay for it didn't come easy. "We owe it to the children of Carter County and to that district to build a school," commissioner Steve Chambers says.

It took more than five motions for the budget commission to come to a recommendation, approving about $850,000 toward the architect's design phase, with no property tax increases.

That came as a surprise, even to Director of Schools Kevin Ward. "Our best hope was to get the 15 cents and get the project approved to send to the full commission for a vote, but basically at this point in time we'll be getting the $850,000 to get us started," he says.

Commissioner Steve Chambers says a tax increase is a better way to go instead of pulling from the county's reserves. "$3.16 a month, which I think is a small price to pay for a child's education in this county," he says.

Commissioner Nancy Brown feels too rushed. "Why can't we take a couple of months, look at these designs and figure it out? Don't throw it at us really quick," she says.

But looming in the back of all of their minds - a new commission coming together in a few months. "They'll be a lot of level-headed people, and I think they'll make the right choices. But don't tie their hands before they get in there," Brown says.

A public hearing is set for July 14 at 5:15 p.m. at the Carter County Courthouse for people to weigh in.

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