With over 2,600 signatures filed on time with the county clerk to petition the ‘recallable nickel tax,” it seems very likely the petition will be validated by the Knox County clerk’s office within the next 30 days. In lieu of the possibility, Knox County Schools Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles remains positive that the building of a new Knox County Area Technology Center will happen.
“I still believe this is best for our community, our kids,” said Sprinkles.
In the event the petition is validated by the county clerk’s office, Sprinkles said it is highly unlikely the school board will opt for a special election. The board will probably wait and add it onto next year’s election ballot.
“It gives us time,” said Sprinkles, “and we’re going to use that time to seek input from the community.”
One of the community’s repeated suggestions during the last couple of school board meetings was for the school board to tighten its belt and use the $3 million it already has to begin building the school and raise the rest over time. That $3 million, Sprinkles explained, is not just sitting around in a bank. The $3 million is a current line of credit, a credit line the school system cannot afford to tie up on the building of one new facility.
Any project of the magnitude of a new tech center will take major funds, and Sprinkles said using the school district’s existing bonding potential is not a viable option.
“Our day-to-day funds have nothing to do with the ‘recallable nickel tax,’” Sprinkles explained. “Our yearly budget is set up to operate the schools already functioning. Those funds are stretched already, and it would significantly hamper the operations of the schools if we were to try to cut back, even a little.”
The school board, he said, has exhausted every possible option of renovating the current tech center. The facility was built in 1961 and renovated in 1966. To bring the building up to code with today’s 21st century capabilities, extensive renovations would have to be done, including all new wiring throughout the building, a new HVAC system, all new plumbing and roofing.
“$3 million won’t come close to renovating the old building,” said Sprinkles. “And tying up what credit we do have would be a very big mistake.”
The Knox County School Board is already aware of possible major repairs, which may need to be made to some of its current schools, and realize they must be prepared for any emergency. Sprinkles explained that both the middle school and the Lynn Camp Elementary have very old roofs that could need repairing at any time. Then there are five schools without safety doors, and several with out-of-date intercom and camera systems.”
“Knox County needs a skilled, trained workforce,” said Sprinkles, “and we simply do not have the technological capabilities to train our people in the tech center’s current state. With the new school, we would have the capability to add a Microsoft ITA Academy, computer science, and HVAC training. The current building does not have either the extensive wiring capability, nor the space needed for either of these programs.
“The community has to want more,” said Sprinkles. “We have got to move forward, and we need to use technology to our advantage. We’re no longer competing with with Indiana and Ohio. We’re now in competition with China and the rest of the world.”
Visit www.mountainadvocate for a short video of Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles’ response to the ‘recallable nickel tax.’