How do you fill Brentwood Middle School’s cafeteria on a Wednesday evening? Reveal a county wide rezoning ‘Plan B.’ I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of this very important unveiling on April 12, held the same night on the same campus as Brentwood High School’s College Knowledge Night. The college night attendance paled in comparison.
I guess it was only fitting that the zoning meeting was overcrowded (yes, standing room only) as superintendent Dr. Mike Looney addressed the issues of overcrowding in our schools to a very passionate group of parents and residents – myself included. Here is what I learned:
- We don’t have the capital funds for Plan A —the proposed $17-$19 million 3-phase renovation project for the Brentwood Middle School/Brentwood High School campus. The only way to meet the funding deadline would be an (unlikely) increase in property taxes. Other funding options being considered include a wheel tax or sales tax increase, but both require a referendum and more time. Time is of the essence as the new zoning plan will be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year.
A rendering of the proposed STEM Center was shared at the meeting. This academic space would be shared by BHS/BMS.
- Williamson County needs 17 new schools over the next six years to keep up with the growth of our population which is slated to double in 20 years. The district student population is growing by 2000 students per year.
- It will cost WCS 20% more to build the two new Thompson Station schools (opening in 2018) vs the cost of Mill Creek schools which opened just last year. This is due to rising construction costs. No surprise here.
- Our last rezoning held for eight years, the county promised us at least five. The next rezoning should hold for 3-5 years. Zones are shrinking, but the fact remains, as Looney indicated “The closer you live to school, ‘may the odds be ever in your favor.’ ” We have been telling clients that for years.
- Plan A rezoning would affect 7-8% of the WCS student population. Plan B would affect closer to 10%. We have 38,000 students currently enrolled countywide.
- WCS state funding is low due to the inequitable “Robin Hood” distribution formula used by the State of TN. State funding is approximately $1,000 per student lower in Williamson County than in the rest of the state. Yet our schools continue to outperform.
- The combined cost of Williamson County debt service and school capital outlay projects over the next five years reaches approximately $600 million. Scary.
- Rezoning plans are up for vote in May at the County Commission meeting. 13 of our 24 commissioners must vote ‘yes’ for plan approval. Residents are urged to voice their opinions to council members now.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Looney at the WCS Back to School Fair. He has a tough job.
Aside from all the politics and information sharing, I was reminded of something important that night… During the meeting, a parent asked for a show of hands for those who would be willing to pay more taxes to help our schools — nearly all of the hands in the room shot into the air. And when a retired gentleman and long-time resident of Brentwood voiced his concerns over tangible vs. intangible costs, he received a standing ovation. Several parents reiterated that this wasn’t about the 10% affected, but the community as a whole. This meeting reminded me that we are passionate about both education and community. Things that matter. It also reminded me that growth comes at a price. But there is also a reason everyone wants to live here. I am confident we’ll figure this out together.
For the latest rezoning plans, visit Williamson County Schools zoning. Plan A and Plan B (plus B1) are broken down in detail, including the names of subdivisions impacted. It’s not over yet, so check back often.
Property values are tied to the quality of our great schools. If you have any questions about the zoning impact, or if you need to move to stay in your current school zone, we would be honored to help. We have school-aged children and are very closely following these developments. We understand the passion.