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Manahan takes on Washington County Mayor's 'manifesto' at Johnson City Schools meeting

Tony Casey • Updated May 1, 2017 at 9:17 PM

Have you seen the inter-local agreement between Johnson City and Washington County?

Dr. Richard Manahan, a board member with Johnson City Schools, has not. 

At Monday’s meeting of the Johnson City Board of Education, Manahan requested a copy of that agreement from the school system’s legal counsel, questioning how the board is supposed to follow it if it’s never been reviewed by members.

The agreement would allow the county to repay the city what it owes in matching educational capital project expenses not in one lump sum, but in annual cash payments equal to debt service payments.

“I don’t understand how we could have an interlocal government agreement related to school funding that we’ve never had a chance to review or have a discussion on,” Manahan said as part of his response to Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge, who discussed the agreement at last week’s Washington County Commission meeting. “It makes no sense whatsoever.”

In the past, Johnson City commissioners have been open to the conversation with Washington County about capital needs and how they relate to economic development.

But Manahan stated that he feels the city school board has been outside those talks, as well as on the wrong side of a 2016 Washington County property tax increase.

He went down a list of issues he has with Eldridge’s presentation to the Washington County Commission, a meeting attended by Manahan, his peer board members, city commissioners and soon-to-be city school superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett, calling the 12-page funding strategy document a “manifesto.” 

“The Johnson City School Board’s claims regarding this matter obviously reflect their desire to collect as much capital projects funding from the county as possible, in spite of the fact they will be receiving more than enough to fund all their capital needs for the next five years,” Eldridge said in the presentation. “They want the County Commission to go back to the old way of building schools, where the cost is doubled, the full amount is borrowed and the taxpayers are stuck with the bill.

“Following tonight’s meeting, I will make any necessary updates to the report and provide you with the final version this week. At that time, I will also publish the report on the county’s website for public viewing,” Eldridge said.

“The county mayor basically is elected by the Johnson City voters, but he claims he has no responsibility to the Johnson City voters but to tax them,” Manahan said.

He also takes issue with what he says is no direction by Eldridge in the way those dollars will be spent.

Johnson City’s school board has said it intends to form a collective response with city commissioners in responding to Eldridge’s presentation, but have immediate plans to look at the interlocal agreement.

Email Tony Casey at [email protected]. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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