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Partnership to benefit local schools

An offshoot of the City/County Liaison Committee that will focus on collaborative strategies for education is in the works.
“What’s really driving the conversation is the issue in Boones Creek,” Mayor Dan Eldridge said. “We want to make sure we’re not building two schools when we only need one.”
While there is no disagreement on the desperate need for new schools in Boones Creek, potential annexation of that area has leaders concerned about duplicative efforts.
Eldridge said he has been part of meaningful discussions over the last few months with City Manager Pete Peterson, Johnson City Schools Superintendent Richard Bales and Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes.
Members of the as-yet unnamed committee will hopefully be finalized by the end of the year so the group can begin meeting in early 2014.
A second consideration is the development of a plan to spend education dollars as wisely as possible. A transportation partnership between the city and county, for example, is one idea that has been suggested.
The ultimate goal, according to Eldridge, is determining a way to provide comparable services.
“How do we over time get to the point of offering the same opportunities in the county as there are in the city?” he clarifed.
Recommendations from the new committee could affect the long-range facilities plan recently adopted by the county Board of Education.
“Here’s the problem,” Eldridge said. “If we go along as we always have, the reality is we would be investing $214 million (in new debt) on top of the current $156 million, which would put us at $370 million in total debt.”
Eldridge said county government, as a steward, can’t put the taxpayers in that position. “We need to minimize the investment, but accomplish what the schools need,” he said.
Through this collaborative effort, Eldridge said leaders will work toward meeting the requirements without reaching the $214 million total.