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Sullivan commissioner says 72-cent property tax increase needed to ‘equalize education’

Staff Report • Jul 14, 2013 at 4:33 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Commissioner Eddie Williams, longtime chairman of the county’s budget committee, said Thursday that it would take a 72-cent property tax increase to “equalize education” countywide at all K-12 schools now operated by the county, Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn.

Williams made the comment as the Budget Committee briefly discussed a proposal from commissioners Baxter Hood and Pat Shull to create a joint study committee to look at how to best use all the resources currently being used by the three governments separately to best serve education.

Shull spoke to the committee on behalf of the proposal, which could come up for a vote by the full County Commission next week.

Williams said there are groups already looking at that issue and there is no need to step on anyone else’s feet by starting a new effort.

“We don’t need two different groups making decisions before one of them is finished,” Williams said.

Shull said he has been assured by Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie that there is no such group currently meeting.

Yennie, among the audience as he waited to speak to the committee about the county school system’s budget request for the fiscal cycle that began July 1, seemed to support the proposal for a joint committee to study the issue.

Yennie said there is not a committee operating now, “formally.”

“It’s not a bad idea to have a group to continue looking at all the things that are happening,” Yennie said.

Hood has said he doesn’t have a specific agenda and his primary objective in proposing the committee is simply to bring people together to get a conversation started.

If approved by the full commission, the resolution will direct Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey to invite city officials from Bristol, Tenn., and Kingsport to look at “educational resources” through creation of a joint education committee “to study and evaluate ways to maximize the utilization of county educational resources and provide quality education to Sullivan County students.”

Last month, Shull said “I am not putting forth an idea of countywide consolidation.”

But he went on to say that could be the recommendation of the joint study committee if it is created.

Shull said he would probably like to see three special school districts: one encompassing today’s Kingsport City Schools system, with the addition of Sullivan North and Sullivan South and the feeder schools for North and South; another encompassing today’s Bristol, Tenn., City Schools system, with the addition of Sullivan East and its feeder schools; and a third that would be Sullivan Central High School and its feeder schools.

BOE member Todd Broughton has said he would like to see no one on the committee who has been on that type of study group in the past five years, although county BOE member Jerry Greene questioned the definition of that.

Shull responded to Broughton that his proposal is that each entity would appoint members and that the discussion so far has been for the commission to appoint four members.

The County Commission’s Administrative and Executive committees each have endorsed the resolution.

The Budget Committee voted to take no action.

The Sullivan County Commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Monday on the second floor of the historic Sullivan County Courthouse.

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