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Shuttle buses approved for IA; Sullivan BOE joins liquor-by-drink lawsuit against Kingsport, Bristol

Rick Wagner • Jun 4, 2014 at 11:22 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee will have shuttle buses next school year, at least the first semester, Sullivan County school leaders decided Wednesday night.

In addition, the Board of Education voted to approve including the county school system as a party to the Sullivan County lawsuit seeking a share of Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn., liquor-by-the-drink taxes.

The BOE voted 5-0 with two absent — Vice Chairman Jack Bales and Betty Combs — to approve the spending of almost $250,000 in federal Race to the Top money earmarked for the IA STEM school, including an estimated $25,000 to operate two county-owned high school activity buses as shuttle buses to IA, separate from the buses operated by bus contractors. The grades 6-8 school is moving from a former elementary school in Bloomingdale to become a school within a school inside Holston Middle near Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said the money will, among other things, cover half a year of shuttle bus service using two existing high school activity buses, which will pick up students at yet-to-be-determined locations in the county. But he said another $25,000 in local money would be needed to finish out the bus funding for the rest of the year.

The $245,301 is leftover start-up grant money from IA, part of $1 million the county and Kingsport school system won in the federal money that is administered by the Battelle Memorial Foundation.

As for the lawsuit, the board voted to join the county-filed lawsuit, which some have described as a "friendly" action. It seeks to resolve a convoluted question of whether cities with liquor by the drink should have been sharing 25 percent of the taxes on those sales with their counties' school systems over the past 25 years or so.

County Attorney Dan Street filed the suit before a June 1 deadline with the statement that the BOE would vote at its next meeting to be included, per a discussion with Yennie and BOE Chairman Dan Wells.

After the vote, Wells read a statement saying that the lawsuit was among the county and the two cities and that the county BOE had a good relationship with the other school boards.

In other action, Wells, Jerry Greene, Robyn Ivester, Todd Broughton and Randall Jones:

  • Approved the contract with consultant DeJong-Richter to do a comprehensive facilities study for the county, including recommendations on facilities. The total cost, to be split between the BOE and county commission, is just less than $270,000, although a recent Education Futures Conference was done on a separate contract and brought the main contract down about $2,500 to $267,500.
  • Approved awarding of 40 bus route contracts formerly held by Holston Bus Co. to be split, on a four-year timeline possibly renewable to eight years, among three local vendors who submitted the lowest bids: $39,044 a year from Central Bus Co.; $41,194 annually for L&S Buses; and $39,044 a year for S&R Transit. The contracts are based on 172 days of operation and morning and afternoon runs of 60 miles total each school day.
  • And approved a Community Eligibility Provision for Ketron Elementary School, which will implement a federally funded program to provide universal free meals at Ketron. With more than 60 percent of its free and reduced lunch students already certified as eligible without applying, Yennie said Ketron was the only school eligible for the federal program for 2014-15 by meeting that threshold.
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