Johnson City Schools worried about long-term financial impact of Jonesborough School Proposal


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- With another passing vote for the Jonesborough School proposal- Johnson City Schools worries what the proposal could mean for taxpayers financially.

At its meeting Tuesday night- the Johnson City Schools Board of Education raised questions about the long-term lease to buy agreement between Washington County and the Town of Jonesborough.

SEE MORE: Washington County Commission approved moving forward with amended Jonesborough school project

“For the county to enter into this transaction, its actually going to cost more in interest because the bonds are going to be in the name of the Town of Jonesborough,” said Johnson City Schools Board of Education Chair Tim Belisle.

Belisle says the town of Jonesborough’s credit rating is worse than Washington County’s- he thinks agreeing to the plan as it is could spell long term trouble for Johnson City School’s and its ever growing enrollment.

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“The county has made it clear that their intent is to engage in this transaction to avoid having to return money to the citizens of Johnson City,” said Belisle.

He went on to say, “While the statute itself says if the county issues bonds- they have to share them, this is a bond issuance by the county in everything except for the actual name on the bonds.”

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By issuing the bonds this way- he says the Jonesborough School Proposal will cost the county more in the long run due to the interest rates that would be issued.

As he addressed the board, Belisle said the Jonesborough plan in its current state is “…a significant issue for Johnson City and Johnson City schools because it ties up a significant amount of revenue stream through the county for the next twenty years or possibly longer and provides no return.”

On the other hand- he says that it is a Washington County Commission problem and that something should have been done before now.

“This is a Johnson City and Jonesborough versus county commission matter. The county commission has sat on its hands for several years now and not worked to fund a school for Jonesborough,” said Belisle.

In attendance Monday night was also Washington County’s School Board Chair, Keith Ervin.

Belisle welcomed and addressed him by saying:

“We do want you to hear us Keith that we do have no animosity whatsoever toward the Jonesborough school.”

“I support all kids in Washington County,” Ervin responded.

The Johnson City Schools Board is worried that if something isn’t done now with capital funds- the city schools might be in jeopardy.

Board member Jonathan Kinnick said, “We’re going to run out of room in the 22-23 school year to put some of our kids. Even moving around is not going to fix it. So, we’ve got to get something moving now and that’s where our capital money needs to come from.”

SEE MORE: Washington County Commission to hold workshop to discuss Jonesborough K-8 Proposal

Johnson City Schools superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett says that he wants to come to an agreement with the county since almost half of its students attend city schools.

“It’s important for us to have an agreement in place between the Washington County Commission and Johnson City commission to make sure that an equitable amount of funding comes back to 48% of the students in Washington County,” said Barnett.

Belisle says that Tuesday’s workshop will determine the next steps for Johnson City and its School Board. He plans to call a special meeting of the board right before or after the county’s vote- to discuss what’s next.

The Washington County Commission workshop will be held in courtroom 7 of the George Jaynes Justice Center.

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