Nashville Mayor John Cooper committed $100 million to build a new high school in Bellevue as part of his capital spending plan released on Friday, bringing to fruition a decade-long push for the project.
Funding the long-sought Bellevue High project is the largest piece of a record $191 million earmarked for schools projects. The Cooper administration also committed a combined $23 million toward expanding Cane Ridge High School and building a new Cane Ridge Middle School.
Overall, Cooper’s proposed capital spending plan, which must be approved by Metro Council, comes with a price tag of $474.6 million.
Last year following the tornado and onset of the pandemic, the city was only able to spend a combined $207 million on capital projects. Cooper’s administration touted the $191 million for schools as the largest single-year spending and largest percentage of the capital spending plan in at least the last decade.
“We are a growing city with growing needs,” Cooper said in a press release. “This plan helps us catch up on maintenance needs while prioritizing our students’ schools more than ever before. These critical investments in our city’s future are possible because we’re now financially stable as a city for the first time in years.”
Cooper was able to commit more toward the capital spending plan despite the pandemic and the recession for a number of reasons. Late last year the city undertook a massive debt refinancing plan, which freed up more money for capital spending. The property tax increase combined with better than expected tax collections also allowed for more spending.
The Bellevue High project, which will replace existing Hillwood High School, is the culmination of extensive grassroots work by advocates and politicians in west Nashville. Support for the new high school spanned multiple council and school board candidates. Although the city had already purchased the land formerly occupied by Hope Park Church, the project was a source of debate during the 2019 mayoral election.
Advocates said the new school was needed for a community that has exploded in population size over the last decade, growing to over 75,000 residents.
“The long-delayed high school is a project of huge importance to my constituents and families throughout Nashville,” said Metro Councilmember Dave Rosenberg, a chief proponent of the new school. “No capital spending plan in our city’s history has provided this much for our schools, nor has a plan been so focused on education. I’m grateful to Mayor Cooper for his desire to invest in the public schools that serve every corner of Nashville.”
The commitment to Cane Ridge schools will help alleviate overcrowding in that cluster, where the population is also rapidly growing. Cooper’s administration is proposing $4.2 for the first phase of the Cane Ridge Middle School project and $18.8 million to add 24 new classrooms to the high school.
Cooper also proposed $67.8 million for HVAC repairs and upgrades at schools facilities, a county-wide project the administration said was made “even more critical by the pandemic.”
To address the growth in the Antioch area, Cooper pitched a $15 million police precinct there. That would be the city’s ninth police precinct.
Besides schools, the biggest single commitment is to transportation. Cooper earmarked $122 million in transportation investments, including $21 million for sidewalk paving, $30 million in new bike lanes and $7.5 million for “smart traffic management projects to shorten commutes” on the city’s busiest roads.
The overall $476 million capital spending plan is Metro’s largest since $520 million in fiscal year 2016.