City school officials hopeful about capital project negotiations with county

Brandon Paykamian • Nov 4, 2019 at 8:26 PM

After weeks of concern over capital project funding, there was more hope in the air at Monday’s Johnson City Board of Education meeting. 

Chairman Tim Belisle expressed some optimism about future negotiations between Johnson City and Washington County commissioners to meet the capital needs of both the city and Washington County Schools. 

In August, Jonesborough unveiled a proposal to fund a new K-8 school and sports complex estimated to cost about $32 million. The plan was approved by the Washington County Board of Education before the Washington County Commission approved a lease-purchase agreement last week with the town to build the new school.

State law says districts within the county should share all county tax revenue devoted to schools, meaning Johnson City Schools should receive a share from any Washington County capital bonds issued for school buildings. However, city officials have been worried there would be no bonds to share between the two districts under Jonesborough’s current K-8 school funding plan. 

Last week, Washington County commissioners approved a resolution authorizing Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy to negotiate with the city of Johnson City to resolve the recent dispute over funding concerns.

“At the same meeting (last week), the commission passed a resolution declaring its intent to work with Johnson City to provide funds for the needs of the school system, so where things stand now, as I understand it, is the county and the city are supposed to be having conversations to attempt to negotiate some contribution to Johnson City that would help us fund what we’ve expressed would be (needed for) a replacement for Towne Acres Elementary School,” Belisle said, adding that he believes county commissioners would likely “have something hammered out” by the end of the month. 

Since the summer, Johnson City school officials have voiced criticisms about the Jonesborough plan amid a new reconfiguration plan for the city district, which plans to place fifth-graders back into elementary schools and create two middle schools for grades 6-8 out of Indian Trail Intermediate School and Liberty Bell Middle School. This would create $30 million in capital needs, most of which would be needed for the new Towne Acres Elementary School Belisle mentioned. 

In other business, approximately 58 acres near Boone Station and Highland Church roads with about 135 homes were recently annexed into the Johnson City district. Elementary school students from the area were assigned to Woodland Elementary School.

During the November special recognitions section of the meeting, the board recognized the Liberty Bell Middle School 2019 Cross Country Team for winning its third state championship in a row.

The board also gave special recognition to Science Hill Girls Wrestling Coach Jon Renner, who was recently named 2018-19 Coach of the Year by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. Special recognition was also given to Science Hill Boys Golf Coach Kevin Vannoy, who was named Boys’ Golf Coach of the Year.

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