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Deeper Impact: School’s site could have long term economic effects on Washington County

Three of the four sites for the proposed new Boones Creek K-8 schools. (PHOTO CREDIT JOHNSON CITY PRESS)
Three of the four sites for the proposed new Boones Creek K-8 schools. (PHOTO CREDIT JOHNSON CITY PRESS)

“It’s in our school board’s best interest to be able to pick a site that will have economic development, because it builds your economic base and that would only benefit our school system. My opinion, personally is, yes, it would be a great benefit to the school system if we picked a site that had a chance to have economic growth around it, whether it was housing or whatever.”

— Todd Ganger 

Washington County Board of Education Chairman

 

By COLLIN BROOKS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

There is no telling when the Washington County Board of Education will select a site, which will also rest on the approval for funding by the Washington County Commission. However, it might be important to note the opportunity that the BOE has when picking the site.

It is one that numerous county commissioners, along with both county mayors have made known. The placement of the school can and will have longtime economic impacts for Washington County.

While some on the BOE don’t have economic impact as a high priority, Chairman Todd Ganger is aware of the opportunity that the board has to provide the county.

“It’s in our school board’s best interest to be able to pick a site that will have economic development, because it builds your economic base and that would only benefit our school system,” Ganger said. “My opinion, personally is, yes, it would be a great benefit to the school system if we picked a site that had a chance to have economic growth around it, whether it was housing or whatever.”

A case study rests before the BOE and the county commission. While many of each body had little involvement in the selection of Grandview and Ridgeview, the two newest schools in the Washington County school district, their placement can show what the opportunity can do for the county.

Building permit data obtained from the county show that since 2008, Grandview, which is located just off HWY 11E has had 237 building permit requests, which came out to almost $32 million of appraised tax value.

Ridgeview, which is located near Daniel Boone High School off I26 at exit 13, has had just under $59 million worth of appraised tax value in that same amount of time, with 370 building permits.

If the numbers from the schools prove anything, it shows that buildings will pop up no matter where you build a school.

However, the areas that are more ripe for development, like Ridgeview was, will gain more interest and traction faster.

Only one year was the percentage of valuation less than 22 percent, which was 2010 when it sat at 16.46 percent.

As opposed to Grandview, where the highest building percentage was in 2014, which made up 19.86 percent of the valuation.

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge noted that numerous factors go into the dramatic difference, such as desirability and suitability of the area for residential development, access to the interstate and the amount of vacate land available for development. But

Eldridge stressed the importance of site selection during a 10-minute “State of the County” address that he gave to a gathered crowd on April 28.

He told the crowd that the county needs to leverage their investment, by “building the schools in an area of their respective zones that offers the greatest potential for investment and growth,” Eldridge said. “The old adage, build it and they will come, holds true if you build it in the right place. We’ve previously proven this in Washington County.”

However, plans and sites have been tossed back and forth by the BOE which have some wondering when a site will be selected.

“It’s a merry go-round, it’s been like that and I don’t know what is next,” said Ganger of the site selection. “It will probably be in the commission’s hand, to come back to us and if they say, we want a site picked, that will be our next step. We might do it before they say anything.”

Ganger said he felt like the board needs some commissioner support “to go with a site”.

But Washington County Commission Chairman said that he feels like the commission would like for the school board to present them with a site before the budget is voted on by the end of June.

“I don’t want to vote for this amount of money and having someone come back asking for additional money on the front end because the site cost more than we thought,” Matherly said. “Or let’s turn it around and say the site cost less, what are we going to do with the extra $500,000.

“I just think it is prudent on our part to know where the school is going to go and how much it will cost before we vote. I think you’d have to know those numbers before you make a good decision.”

And while Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes won’t be in his same position when a school is opened, he hopes to still be Director when a site is chosen. But even if he isn’t, he notes the importance of the economic development aspect.

“If any structure is built in the appropriate area that encourages growth, you are going to see an increase in the tax base and you’re going to see the ability to maintain taxes on an even keel as additional revenue rolls in because of the growth,” Dykes said. “We need at least a growth that would maintain inflation in this county and we have not had that for some time. So anything that would have an economic impact to the positive side has to be healthy for all citizens.”