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Jonesborough school process has gone to the dogs

Johnson City Press • May 25, 2019 at 12:00 AM

It’s been more than three years of scheming and squabbling, and parents in Jonesborough still don’t know the fate of their children’s schools.

On Tuesday night, the Washington County Commission unanimously rejected “Scheme 6,” a proposal from the county Board of Education to renovate Jonesborough Middle School and add classrooms to make it a K-8 school.

As Press Senior Reporter Robert Houk wrote, commissioners said they were concerned that they did not know the full cost of the project or how much it would contribute to the county’s debt load.

Before voting against the proposal, Commissioner Mike Ford said the commission has been like a dog “chasing its tail.”

Sorry, Commissioner Ford, but to use another canine-centric phrase, that dog don’t hunt.

School board members passed Scheme 6 seven months ago.

There has been more than enough time for the county finance department, led by Mitch Meredith, who is also a school board member, to crunch those numbers and answer those questions.

In a workshop in October, Meredith told commissioners and school board members that the county would need to borrow more than $40 million — part of which would legally belong to Johnson City’s school district — to build Scheme 6 as presented. That amount of debt, he said, would put the county near its borrowing capacity.

Added to the costs of other school district capital needs, like new roofs on the Jonesborough schools, commissioners resurrected the tax increase boogeyman again.

It sounds like the commissioners’ finance questions have been answered. Now give the school board and Jonesborough’s parents a straight answer.

If it’s too expensive to renovate the school right now, say so. If there’s an acceptable dollar amount for the project, say so.

Don’t continue giving lame excuses to try to save face. Don’t waste time creating yet another task force that won’t solve anything.

Jonesborough doesn’t need another dog and pony show. It needs a school.

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