By BROOKE WANSER
Franklin aldermen have unanimously passed a resolution which clarified an agreement to redistribute a portion of the recent sales tax increase to the Franklin Special School District.
The special schools, which serve Franklin’s middle schoolers in addition to Williamson County Schools, have been receiving a portion of the sales tax money, dictated by the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) formula.
But FSSD administrators recently brought forth the issue, claiming they weren’t receiving the share promised them.
While their funding has been coming from the county’s redistribution of the tax increase, the share coming from the city of Franklin has not been released.
Breaking it down
After a vote in February, the sales tax increase went into effect in April. Each city in the county agreed to put the extra half-percent tax towards the schools for new buildings and debt revenue.
Though Williamson County Schools were often referred to solely as the beneficiary of the funds, Franklin aldermen referred to a mailer circulated by the county chamber of commerce, Williamson, Inc., which also listed FSSD as a recipient of the funding.
In an interlocal agreement signed by Franklin leaders and county Mayor Rogers Anderson in July of 2017, the two municipalities agreed that the city would redistribute half of the half-percent increase towards schools for a three-year term.
County Mayor Rogers Anderson agreed that FSSD was always intended to be a recipient of the funds, and currently is receiving a portion of the funds.
He said a breakdown in communication between the city and FSSD is what caused the dilemma.
“The way the money is split, half goes to the city, half goes to the school,” Anderson explained. “So, the cities gave up their increase of that half for three years. The Williamson County public school system gave up their money for three years. All of that money was going towards debt service of new schools. It cannot be used for operational costs,” he continued. “Nothing has changed in the formula.”
The Average Daily Attendance formula determines the amount FSSD is currently receiving, which is eight percent of the county’s half percent, while Williamson County Schools receive 92 percent of the funds.
“The bone of contention that nobody thought about is when Franklin gives up their city portion of the split, after the ADA proportional has been shared with Williamson County Schools and FSSD,” Anderson said.
“We’re doing everything legal, and they are getting their share,” Anderson added. “But they [FSSD] feel like they should be getting Franklin’s share also.”
Franklin board discussion
Ward 2 Alderman Dana McLendon brought forth the resolution Tuesday after leading the dissent in a resolution about the funding at the last meeting.
The agreement isn’t binding, but will make clear that the city intends to forego their sales tax dollars for FSSD funding.
That resolution promised the FSSD an additional six months of city funding, to the tune of $3.5 million, aldermen said.
“I felt like, when I cast my vote, I was supporting the FSSD,” McLendon said. “My intent when agreeing to forgo three years of sales tax was for the county school system and the FSSD to participate and receive benefits, that they would both benefit.”
McLendon said the way the funds would be used was fuzzy when pitched by government and community entities.
“It never occurred to me that anyone would later think that we didn’t intend for the FSSD to get a share,” he said.
Ward 4 Alderman Margaret Martin noted that FSSD schools didn’t require the same buildout as Williamson County Schools.
“When I voted, I did not have any inclination at all that this money would be shared,” she said.
“We’re not going to solve this problem by just doing this,” said Alderman Pearl Bransford. “It will still be out there in limbo.”
“We as the elected body here are saying to the Franklin Special community that our intent was for you to benefit as well. I don’t see how we can go the next step to make it possible for them to benefit. We are saying one thing, but the action has to come from somewhere else. It does not give Franklin Special, from where I sit, any answer.”