Henderson County manager Steve Wyatt said Wednesday it’s likely a five-cent tax rate increase will get approved to cover millions of dollars in deferred school building maintenance and related building costs.
Wyatt said Wednesday was the first day school administrators presented their full ask of budget items, which is over the $28 million commissioners had allotted for the tax year. Superintendent Bo Caldwell made the budget presentation that included about $5 million needed to overhaul two Henderson County schools' HVAC systems where pipes are leaking.
The tax increase, Wyatt said, would amount to about $125 on a home valued at $250,000. Wyatt said discussions between school administrators and commissioners over various budget needs have been going on since January, but he was not aware of the approximate $6 million capital expenditure request by the school district until Wednesday when Caldwell showed the request and the figures. About $500,000 of the overall request is for capital school improvements that include a focus on safety. Several schools would get new entryways that would be secure and have buzzers to let individuals into the school from a separated locked entry. The district would also like to hire a district safety director.
"I have two kids in the school system, and I feel they have to be protected,” Henderson County school board chairman Amy Lynn Holt said. “As a board chair I feel like I'm mothering 13,000 students who who have to be protected and taken care of. So, I feel it's essential for our district.”
Wyatt said he recommended to commissioners the idea of raising the tax rate by five cents, which would generate $22 million over four years. He said the fund would cover current asks and future capital requests over and above the current budgeted operations budget for the district.
Wyatt said the more than half the revenues that come in from property taxes go to fund schools in the county from the district to Blue Ridge Community College that also has building construction plans.
The commission will vote June 3 whether to approve the tax increase that would go into effect in July and impact tax bills for the 2019-20 tax year.