School, bond issues divide Lakeland

NEXT MEETINGS

  • 6:30 p.m. Jan. 5, Lakeland school board work session, Lakeland City Hall
  • 5:30 p.m. Jan. 8, Lakeland Board of Commissioners work session, Lakeland City Hall
  • 7 p.m. Jan. 12, Lakeland school board business meeting, Lakeland City Hall
  • 5:30 p.m. Jan. 20, Lakeland Board of Comissioners business meeting, Lakeland City Hall

Two Lakeland groups are clamoring for the best education for their children, but there are huge differences in how they want to achieve that.

Lakeland currently has only an elementary school and is grappling with the decision to expand and how to pay for it. In the meantime, a seven-year interlocal agreement with Arlington Community Schools (ACS) allows Lakeland to send its middle and high school students to the highly rated Arlington schools.

The four key questions getting attention are:

  • Whether to build a proposed $50 million combined middle/high school (Lakeland Prep),
  • If it’s built, when to do so,
  • If it’s built, how to pay for it, and
  • If it’s built and a bond issue is used to pay for it, whether to let citizens vote on the bond.

The project is a major cost and a major point of discussion for a city with about 12,430 residents (as of the 2010 Census), including 8,274 registered voters. In a city of this size, many people are likely to feel the effects and costs.

new-lakeland-prep-logoThe Lakeland city board approved a $50 million general obligation bond issue on Dec. 11 to build Lakeland Prep, and they did not support the mayor’s motion to have a referendum (citywide vote) on the bond.

Currently, a group of Lakeland citizens is trying to get enough signatures to force the referendum.
As of Monday, the petitioners were closing in on 900 signatures and said they plan to submit the petition to the Shelby County Election Commission for verification on Dec. 30. They need at least 827 signatures verified as Lakeland residents who are also registered voters in order to require Lakeland to have a referendum.

Read what both sides say

Click the following links to review some of the arguments and data provided by people on opposing sides of this issue:

LAKELAND TAXES

  • First property tax ($0.85): In July 2012, the Lakeland Board of Commissioners implemented the first property tax in the city’s 35-year history. The $0.85 tax per $100 of a property’s assessed value breaks down to $0.60 for Lakeland capital projects such as road maintenance, $0.15 for operation of the school system, and $0.10 for school district capital projects, such as Lakeland Prep.
  • Local option sales tax ($0.005): Voters approved this half-cent sales tax in an Aug. 2, 2012, referendum. It’s the equivalent of an additional nickel paid in local option sales tax for every $10 spent on retail purchases in Lakeland. That brought the total sales tax to 9.75 percent. A city flier stated, “… in order to create and maintain a quality school system comparable to what we currently have, we must also raise the local option sales tax to meet the City of Lakeland’s municipal school funding obligations.
  • Special property tax ($0.55): On Oct. 14, 2014, the Lakeland city board had a public hearing and approved a special property tax on its final reading. The tax is $0.55 per $100 of a property’s assessed value and was enacted to assist in funding the construction of additional school buildings. The ordinance stated it was established solely for the retirement of the anticipated school bond debt and that it would terminate when that debt was retired. This tax will take effect on July 1, 2015, and will be collected for the year 2015 (meaning that it is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015).

 


Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at bartlett.editor@journalinc.com.