Macon County Director of Schools Tony Boles brought an idea for a new elementary school and other projects to the County Commission during its Sept. 18 meeting.

Boles said that growth in Macon County, and in the Lafayette area in particular, has spurred the need for a new school in the area to ease overcrowding and make way for future growth in the city and county as well. 

“We have had a 450 student increase in the last two years, and the majority of that has been in the lower elementar y grades,” Boles said. “The school board is proposing to build a 1,200 student elementary school to house grades two through five.” 

After 18 years, the school board has finally paid off the note on Macon County High School, and Boles is asking the county commission to consider funding the project for the new elementary school, so that money from the board of education can be used for other improvement projects around the county.

“We are asking the county commission to fully fund the 1,200 student elementary school and free up the money for the board of education to have to use on other projects,” Boles said.

“There are room additions needed at Macon County Junior High School, as well as a cafeteria expansion. We also want to close the corridor between the Macon County High School building and the Macon County High gymnasium. We need to enclose that corridor as a matter of safety as much as anything.”

Boles also said other needed items can be used with the money — about $650,000 per year in the payments — that has become available since the high school building was paid off in August.

“If we had to pay that, we wouldn’t have room for expansion or any of the capital projects we need,” Boles said. “Some of the money could be used for technology upgrades, an increase in salaries for non-certified personnel and to hire more guidance counselors.

“We have had to share guidance counselors at the elementary school, and those are some of the things that we have had to sacrifice while we were paying off Macon County High School.”

Further down the list of possible projects for the school board are a new central office building or a new transportation and maintenance building.

Boles estimated that the cost of building the new 1,200-student elementary school would be about $24 million, and that payments would be about $1.35 million per year on a 25-year note.

That could change somewhat, because with the proposal still in its infancy stages, the county does not yet know if it has sufficient land to build the school on or would have to purchase a property on which to locate it.

Boles spent 12 years on the Macon County Commission and said there are way to pay for the new school, such as a property tax increase, a sales tax increase or a wheel tax increase. He also indicated that the county’s debt service should improve in the next three years or so, which would make the county more able to afford to build the new school.

“The Macon County Board of Education has been paying off Macon County High School solely on Board of Education funds,” Boles said. “No property tax dollars (were used). It all came from the basic education program. Now, we’re leaving it up to the commission to determine how they can fund this school.”