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Lebanon schools to go after owed money

Xavier Smith • Mar 20, 2017 at 4:35 PM

The Lebanon Special School District will explore its options regarding an ongoing lawsuit with the City of Mt. Juliet regarding owed liquor-by-the-drink tax money owed to the district.

The city of Mt. Juliet and the Wilson County school board approved an agreement between the two parties regarding the lawsuit earlier this year, but language excluded the Lebanon Special School District.

In the agreement, the city would agree to waive any and all future fees that are within their authority up to $380,000 that are related to building, renovation and development of new and existing schools.

The agreement also said Mt. Juliet would hold Wilson County Schools harmless against litigation or payment of funds to the Lebanon Special School District, which means Wilson County Schools would not be required to pay a portion of its settlement to the city schools.

In 2013, it was revealed many cities in Tennessee didn’t pay their portion of their liquor-by-the-drink tax to public schools systems that operated within those cities due to an oversight. Wilson County Schools and the Lebanon Special School District were among the school districts in Tennessee that were owed back taxes by cities.

Monday, the Lebanon Special School District school board received an update and learned of possible options from Mike Kurtz, student services administrator. Kurtz said the potential settlement brought up issues about how the district should proceed in the lawsuit.

“We’re still in the lawsuit against Mt. Juliet. The second issue is if they settle with Wilson County Schools for an in-kind gift, where does that leave us? If it’s an in-kind gift, there’s still 17 percent pro rata that we view is owed to us,” Kurtz said.

Kurtz said the district believes its entitled to 17 percent of any money received by Wilson County Schools in the settlement, including any in-kind gifts.

“Even if they settle, the lawsuit still goes on, as well as a possible claim back against the Wilson County Schools,” said Kurtz, who said he believes Wilson County Schools has attempted to protect the district’s interest during negotiations.

“I think the only way they see to get this settled would be to take what they believe would be their percentage of the full amount,” Kurtz said.

Kurtz said no parties have questioned if the money is actually owed, especially since the city has been up to date on payments since 2013.

“Our belief is it’s about the students. It’s the students’ money – all Wilson County students,” Kurtz said.

“It’s our money and we want it. My opinion is do whatever you have to do to get the money. We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re just getting something that is owed to us. It’s for the students. It’s not a whole lot of money, but it’s money we could use for educational purposes,” board chairman Steve Jones said.

The resolution authorizes school district attorneys “to undertake any and all steps as are necessary to secure to the Lebanon Special School District all monies which should be paid and distributed to the Lebanon Special School District.”

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