Putnam County School District board members approved a request to name Palatka High School’s athletic facilities The John L. Williams Athletic Center after the Palatka High School player and NFL running back of the same name.
A 10-person committee, including Palatka Mayor Terrill Hill and PHS Principal J.T. Stout, recommended the change.
The committee made the recommendation at Tuesday’s school board meeting, where board members unanimously approved the name change.
The athletic center includes all the school’s athletic facilities, though individual areas will keep their names, such as Veterans Memorial Stadium or the Bill Bennett Weight Room.
Superintendent Rick Surrency said honoring Williams was not only about football, but also Williams’ contributions to the school and the community.
“I think it was well-discussed and gives us an opportunity to recognize all the contributions of John L. Williams,” Surrency said.
Originally, the request was for renaming only the gymnasium. Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Thomas Bolling said last month the district couldn’t name a building after someone who is alive, though he said that procedure can be changed via committee.
Former PHS football coach Jim McCool sent a letter to board members last month asking for the renaming. McCool was head coach from 1983 to 2003.
Williams, an All-State and All-American running back, played varsity football for the Panthers from 1979 to 1981, winning the state championship in 1981.
Williams was drafted in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks and enjoyed a 10-year career in the NFL, with the Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers. Williams also played for the Florida Gators from 1982 to 1985.
The process to name the gymnasium after Williams began with the first committee meeting Sept. 2. Bolling said creating the athletic center gave the district an opportunity to name the basketball court or the track after another athlete in the future.
School board members applauded the naming of the athletic center. Board member David Buckles said it was important to have foresight in naming other areas.
“That would leave room in the future,” Buckles said.
In other business, the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget of $190,292,722 and millage rates were approved unanimously last night. The district OK’d a millage rate of 5.897 mills, increasing from the 5.869 millage rate last year. The tentative budget was first approved Aug. 3.
Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Rhonda Odom said a resident with property worth $100,00 and a $25,000 homestead exemption, would have his or her property taxes increase $2.10.
Odom said the tax increase is due to increased property values.
Odom said for the district to receive about $61 million in state education grants, the state tells the district to set a required local effort millage rate of 3.627 and a period funding adjustment millage rate of 0.022 mills. The district levies a discretionary operating millage of 0.748 and a millage rate of 1.500 mills for its capital outlay fund.
The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.