City Commissioners signal support for school feasibility study


City Commissioners signal support for school feasibility study

Photo: Brentwood parent and Study Brentwood member Jeff Ker addresses the City Commission at its Monday night meeting.

By LANDON WOODROOF

The idea of conducting a study to examine the feasibility of a Brentwood municipal school district garnered support from Brentwood parents and elected officials at Monday night’s City Commission meeting. 

Several members of a local advocacy group, Study Brentwood, formed to push for such a study,  as well as several City Commissioners spoke in favor of moving forward with the issue.

“I agree and support your efforts that we do need a study so we can know exactly what we are talking about when we talk about starting our own school system,” Mayor Jill Burgin told the audience, which was made up largely of Study Brentwood members.

Vice Mayor Mark Gorman expressed a similar sentiment.

“I agree with you and fully support an independent study,” he said, directly addressing several Study Brentwood members. “I don’t have enough information to make a decision one way or another so we need to do a study to know whether it’s a good idea or not.”

A number of Study Brentwood supporters explained on Monday night their reasons for wanting the city to undertake an independent feasibility study on the new school district idea.

Many of these reasons had to do with the belief that Brentwood puts in more than it gets back from Williamson County Schools, a problem that supporters expect only to worsen in the future as development surges in other parts of the county.

Brentwood parent Scott Daniels, for instance, worried that “our schools’ renovation and replacement needs will be displaced by capacity needs for new schools in faster growing parts of the county,” no matter the amount Brentwood residents contribute.

Daniels also expressed skepticism about whether the city should agree to give its share of the proceeds from a possible sales tax increase to Williamson County Schools, as Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson recently asked the City Commission to do.

“We have a growing concern about the increasing pressure from the county for cities to fund school needs,” Daniels said.

That concern was exacerbated by what he described as the county’s lack of a longterm funding plan for schools.

“We as citizens of Brentwood, parents of school children and community members feel conflicted about making additional longterm financial commitments to the county when there is no longterm funding strategy and they have additional revenue sources available, which need to be evaluated,” he said.

Another Brentwood parent, Grady Tabor, urged the city to move forward with a study soon.

“Let’s not sit idle and wait for the next event because it will come again in three years, five years or less,” he said, in reference to the recent controversy over school rezoning plans that left many Brentwood parents worried that their students would be sent to different schools.

City Commissioner Ken Travis spoke in favor of getting the process going.

“‘I’d like to ask that we talk about that at the next informational meeting, about moving this forward,” he said. “I think that’s the next step in this.”

City Manager Kirk Bednar cautioned that a study will take time.

“It’s not something that will happen in the next few weeks,” he said, describing how the city would have to go through the process of finding a suitable company to conduct the study.

The idea of a feasibility study had been raised by City Commissioner Rhea Little in April. He said that he often heard from Brentwood residents interested in the idea and wanted to be able to give them an informed answer about the pros and cons of a city school district.

“I think everyone know my views on the feasibility study and seeking the truth on the matter,” he said Monday night.

The City Commission’s next informational meeting is set for Aug. 24.

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