Washington County Board of Education sends athletic field requests, capital project plan to commission

Jessica Fuller • Nov 26, 2018 at 8:58 PM

Washington County Board of Education members had to take a hard look at the department’s priorities at a called meeting Monday night.

Discussions about the future athletic fields next to the Boones Creek K-8 site and the department’s capital improvement plan took center stage, and a two-hour meeting produced a wish list for the future athletic fields, a priority list for the department’s capital improvement plan and about $225,000 earmarked from the department’s fund balance.

Hashing out priorities 

Director of Schools William Flanary requested a single-priority list, and after more than an hour of discussion, the board pushed a priority list with school buses, technology and the future Jonesborough K-8 school topping the list. 

Flanary said his job moving forward will be to bring the list of priorities to the County Commission. 

Mitch Meredith, a board member and the county’s finance and administration director, explained that the pennies allocated for education aren’t earmarked for any one project or projects. For a frame of reference, he also explained that five pennies equals about $1.5 million per year. 

“The commission recognizes that the school board’s priorities may change over time, so those pennies are generic pennies — they are to pay for the projects that you think are the most important,” he said. 

After a 40-cent property tax increase, 14 pennies were allocated for Boones Creek’s new school while five pennies were earmarked for Jonesborough’s new school. Meredith pointed out in a joint workshop last month that the 5 cents originally allocated for Jonesborough was used to lower the debt for the Boones Creek project.

Philip McLain’s motion to prioritize school buses first, technology second and the future Jonesborough K-8 school third passed in a 8-1 vote, with Chad Fleenor voting against the motion. 

Funding immediate needs

During the discussion of capital improvement plan, two motions passed to spend a total of almost a quarter million dollars from the department’s fund balance.

Finance Director Brad Hale reported that the department’s reserve balance is sitting at about $6.1 million minus about an $180,000 charge for Christmas bonuses. The first motion by McLain allocated about $75,000 to replace outdated equipment in cafeterias in the county, mostly hot wells — the equipment used to keep food hot after it’s been cooked.

The $75,000 expenditure covers about half of the requests from food service for new equipment – McLain’s motion put requests for new freezers on hold in favor of getting immediate repairs to ovens and hot wells. 

Todd Ganger suggested putting the food service requests at the top of the capital plan priorities list, but McLain argued that pulling the money from the fund balance would allocate the money immediately versus waiting for the beginning of the next fiscal year. 

“Keeping roofs from leaking is a necessity, keeping the buses on the road to get these kids to school is a necessity and taking care of our cafeteria staff to feed these kids, it may be the only hot meal some of these kids get in a whole week. We need to take care of our kids and we need to do this,” McLain said.

Later in the meeting, Ganger made a motion to allocate $150,000 to replace the lights at the David Crockett High School softball field, stating it was a move that was “long overdue.” 

“Somebody told me that you could turn the boys’ lights on all night and it would burn less energy than if you turned the girls’ softball lights on for one hour,” McLain said. 

Chairman Keith Ervin wasn’t too keen on another expense drawn from the department’s reserves, and joined Fleenor in voting against the motion that passed in a 7-2 vote. 

“I agree, I’ve watched ball games and stuff down there, but everybody sitting at this table discussed about wanting to lower student-teacher ratio, and I do not like going in to my fund balance very much,” he said. 

Requests for the future athletic field

The board tackled requests for the future athletic field at the beginning of the meeting after Johnson City’s decision to pull out of a partnership with the county  to fund the facility means that the project is now the county’s endeavor and not the schools’. 

The board’s goal was to compile a wish list for the fields, which will be adjacent to the new Boones Creek K-8 school once it’s finished. Commissioners Suzy Williams and Jodi Jones, who are also part of the county’s Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural committee, attended the beginning of Monday night’s meeting to listen to the discussion. 

With input from Maintenance supervisor Phillip Patrick, the board chose to prioritize a football/soccer field, a track, a baseball and softball filed at minimum, and a request for the commission to consult the board about bleachers, concession stands and restrooms.

But since the county will own the fields, and the county has no parks and recreation department, it is unclear if the county or the department of education will maintain the fields, giving Fleenor pause. He chose to vote in favor of the list anyway.

The motion, made by Ganger, passed in a 8-1 vote. Meredith voted against the list of requests. 

“I think Mr. Fleenor had the right idea,” Meredith said. 

Email Jessica Fuller at jfuller@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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