Lakeland mayor offers compromise on proposed high school

Lakeland mayor offers compromise on proposed high school

LAKELAND, TN (WMC) - Lakeland’s new mayor is proposing what he calls a compromise, trying to end years of feuding over building a high school in the suburbs.

Lakeland's newly elected mayor Mike Cunningham says tackling the issue of a high school is his main priority. It's been a point of contention in the suburb for more than five years.

"I believe it is the top initiative that the city needs to tackle,” Mayor Cunningham said.

Lakeland has an elementary school and a newly built middle school. High school students go to Arlington High School.

Previous proposals for a new high school have been voted down and another plan to use bonds ended up in court with a lawsuit. That suit was dismissed.

Mayor Cunningham says he thinks he’s found a compromise, and that’s to wait.

“We need to make sure it can be done before we start making promises because if we borrow the money and it can’t be done, Lakeland is in a world of hurt financially,” Mayor Cunningham said.

At Thursday’s Lakeland Board of Commissioners meeting, the vice mayor proposed a 30-year bond plan to build the estimated $35 million school.

Mayor Cunningham says in his plan, he promises the school will open by 2023 at the latest.

He said waiting will allow the city, which currently has a $2 million deficit, to be in a better financial position to not raise taxes for the school.

“I don’t want to over borrow, to build a school that actually puts a strain on City Hall and our employees’ ability to run this city,” Mayor Cunningham said. “Because that’s the last thing we need."

At the meeting, two mothers spoke in support of a new high school as soon as possible.

“My son and my two other sons play football,” said mother Katie Autry. “They want to play for the school that they attend. They are Lakeland boys.”

“It’s time for our city to make Lakeland K-12,” said mother Amy Foster.

Another resident was worried about using bond money.

"I worry about fiscal responsibility,” said Linda Miller.

A permanent decision was not made Thursday.

"Let’s do it right, our kids deserve that,” Mayor Cunningham said.

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