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Programs, ‘live bodies’ in danger without additional school funding

Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes didn’t mince words at last week’s budget committee meeting, where he informed commissioners of the schools’ dire need for more funding.
“We are truly operating this system on over $2 million less than we did three years ago, and we have two new schools. That’s the reality,” Dykes said. “We have to have some new dollars or I have to continue to cut. And this time it’s going to affect programs and live bodies. We’ll have to cut everything that is not (state) mandated. We cannot do that without seriously affecting the quality of education in Washington County.”
Dykes came to the committee meeting seeking “guidance and support” regarding the deteriorating football stadiums at both David Crockett and Daniel Boone high schools.
Repairs made a few years ago to the Crockett stadium will keep it operational for now, Dykes said, but the same can’t be said for Boone’s stadium.
“There are issues regarding the upper two sections of seating at Daniel Boone’s football stadium. Those areas cannot be used until repair is made,” Dykes said. “I will not expose the general public any longer to the upper portion of those bleachers, and certainly not our children.”
To make repairs on that section alone, Dykes estimated the cost to be about $35,000.
“But if you just repair the top, you’re still going to be dealing with the continuing deterioration of the structure,” Dykes noted, saying it would be wise to consider a complete repair to the stadium’s seating, which would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000.
“I don’t know any other way around this gentleman. You know our financial situation,” Dykes said. “WE’re already going to have to address at least a $700,000 shortfall for this school year and next year is looking worse just out of the shoot. We’re going to need some funding help of some fashion.”
According to state law, the school system must have a funding mechanism in place before it can release proposals and ask for bids on the stadium repair project.
Washington County Mayor George Jaynes said the commission might consider an inner-government loan, but the decision would have to wait until the commission’s June meeting.
Dykes pushed for permission to seek proposals, saying construction would take a minimum of six to eight weeks.
“Football season starts in August,” he said.
If the work is done to Boone’s stadium, Dykes said it will likely add another eight to 10 years of use to the 40-year-old facility. However, he warned that both high school stadiums are “a little small for today’s housing of the conferences in which those schools exist.”
In other news, Jaynes agreed to pay the county highway department approximately $110,000 for paving of the parking lots at the new Justice Center as well as behind the Jonesborough Courthouse on Main Street.
The budget committee also approved the transfer of an estimated $75,000 from the general fund to purchase three new water heaters in the jail that Washington County Sheriff Graybeal said “are burnt out” after 16 years of “doing a good job for us.”
The full Washington County commission will meet for its regular meeting on Monday, May 24.