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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Johnson City leaders are making plans for major renovations at Towne Acres Elementary School and considering a tax increase to pay for it.
Members of the Johnson City Commission and the Johnson City Board of Education met to discuss a timeline and potential funding options to build an entirely new building on the school’s existing campus.
“Everyone understands that our need is we need a school to be built before the year 2034,” said school board Chair Kathy Hall.
Assistant City Manager Randy Trivette told News Channel 11 city leaders are hoping to start construction even sooner.
“What they’re really trying to do is move this project up within the next two years, so that we can start design, we can put it out to a bid and get construction going,” said Trivette.
The Johnson City Board of Education neither owns the building nor does it fund its operations. Both of those responsibilities fall in large part to the city.
However, due to the city’s current debt obligations, it is not able to take on more debt without raising revenues.
Trivette said cost estimates for the new building are around $40 million and that the city would not be able to take on a project of this magnitude until 2035 unless it opts to increase taxes.
“That would be an option that the City Commission could consider,” Trivette said.
Many of the buildings at Towne Acres are 50 years or older. Trivette also noted that the “pod system” of small, circular buildings is outdated.
Hall said a new building would likely have a two-story layout and capacity for 700 students. Towne Acres currently has a capacity of about 420 students.
“Although it’s a great school, and students love it there, there’s parts of it that need to be replaced,” said Hall. “We also need a larger school in that area of the city so we want to make sure that we have enough room for our students.”