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School board facing time, money constraints to renovate Jonesborough school

Washington County, Tennessee leaders are trying to fund a controversial plan to renovate Jonesborough's elementary and middle schools.

Parents said the open floor plan in the elementary school doesn't work for classrooms and the building is getting old. 

Under the plan, the elementary school would be expanded to be a K-8 school. The middle school would be transformed into a magnet school.

Last month, school board leaders learned that plan would cost at least $28 million dollars, putting them $8 million over budget. County mayor Dan Eldridge said the county does not have any more flexibility in its budget.

"These financial constraints are real," Eldridge said. "The county commission has raised taxes. It isn't going to raise taxes again. It's absolutely necessary that we be able to fit those projects within the budget."

On Monday night, the school board looked at making some cuts, including fewer classrooms, or pushing back renovations until more money can be saved.

But Eldridge said they are running out of time.

"I think that they are between a rock and a hard place, in that there has been an expectation set by some board members that the only answer is a new school," he said. "But as you've seen here tonight, the money is not available. It's just not there."

School board members were also told of the possibility of selling what will be the old Boone's Creek Elementary school property. That would give them an additional $3 million. But county leaders said that is not guaranteed.

Eldridge said under the federal government's proposed tax plan, the county's borrowing costs would go up dramatically at the start of the new year.

Monday night was only a workshop so the school board could not vote. Its next meeting is on December 7th.


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