Lakeland may raise taxes to build a combined middle and high school

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LAKELAND, Tenn. -- Lakeland wants a new school, but to build it, homeowners will have to pull out their wallets.

Lakeland is the smallest municipal school district, with just Lakeland Elementary.

When kids finish fifth grade there, they must leave town to attend middle school.

That's something the Lakeland Board of Education wants to change.

Lakeland City Manager Chris Thomas said, "Any community that's going to be healthy and vibrant has to educate all their children in their city."

The city wants to build a $50 million combined middle and high school. It would keep kids closer to home and bring in more funding for the city.

Superintendent Ted Horrell said, "The state and the county tax money that goes with those students right now is going to Arlington schools and Bartlett schools, which is as it should be, because they're educating the students."

The cost of funding the new campus and building the school would go to homeowners.

"The original estimate is around a 55 percent property tax increase," Thomas said.

One homeowner, Jimmy Lawson, thinks that's too much.

"We all like to see better education. Neighborhood schools are great, but we also don't like to see higher taxes," he said.

The Lakeland Board of Commissioners could approve the plan themselves or let voters decide.

Lakeland residents have voted to increase their own taxes before, and Horrell said he hopes they do it again if asked.

"We think this is the right move for our students and our school system," he said.

Thomas insists a new campus would ultimately benefit people who do not have school age children as well.

"The property values will increase if we have that school here and we're able to educate K through 12," he said.

The Lakeland Board of Commissioners meets for a work session Thursday at 5:30. That is when school officials will make their proposal.

Lakeland voters approved a sales tax hike last year to create the new district.

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