School board short millions after second look at Jonesborough Elem. renovation options

JONESBOROUGH, TENN. (WJHL) – A plan to update a school in Tennessee’s oldest town is still over budget.

For years, parents have complained about conditions at Jonesborough Elementary School.

After hearing about a first round of options that were far over budget – the architect went back to the drawing board and unveiled the latest revisions Monday night.

But Monday night, the school board learned the revised versions are still over budget.

“I’ve either got to decrease size or I’ve got to decrease quality,” Architect Tony Street said.

Both of the revised plans reduced square footage to reduce costs.

Option one – renovate the current signature round part of the school, fixing a long list of serious problems.

“Sewage coming up in classroom sinks due to pipes under the floor, again we will be jet flushing the existing plumbing,” Street said.

That plan will also remove asbestos and install a new A/C system.

The budget – $20,750,000 for the new K-8 school, also making Jonesborough Middle School into a magnet high school.

Option one is still around $3.4 million over budget.

Option two eliminates the round portion and builds new, “$5.5 million basically over budget,” Street said.

County Mayor Dan Eldridge said the board has to make it work within budget.

“The county commission has raised taxes, they aren’t going to raise taxes again, it’s absolutely necessary that we fit the projects within the budget that has been established and the taxes have been raised to pay for,” Eldridge said.

Eldridge said the meeting was productive – and he hopes the school board understands the budget constraints.

“When they make a decision on what they want to request from the county commission, it’s going to be my responsibility to figure out how to structure the financing for it,” Eldridge said.

There’s talks of delaying the magnet school portion of the plan, that will take more discussion and a school board vote.

Mayor Eldridge said he’ll be meeting with the School Board Chairman, Jack Leonard and architects to further discuss the plans.

Look for this to resurface at the board’s December meeting. The board is hoping to make a decision by the end of the year for the school to stay on track to open Fall 2020.

Mayor Eldridge also said he’s concerned about borrowing costs going up ahead of Congress making a decision on tax reform. He said if either tax plan passes it’ll cause more for the county to borrow.

It’s worth noting, Mayor Eldridge went to the school board meeting on mission to talk about what he considers the root problem – the funding disparity between county and city schools.

He said it’s state law – but the impact real with a difference of more than a thousand dollars per student per year.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved. 


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