Mt. Juliet is unlikely to appeal the decision that the city pay the county's public schools back-tax proceeds pursuant to a three-year-old lawsuit.
Wilson County Schools' longstanding lawsuit against Mt. Juliet culminated last Thursday in a judgment of $472,660 to be paid by Mt. Juliet to the district. The suit was jointly filed with the Lebanon Special School District back in 2014, a year after it was discovered that many cities statewide owed several similar school districts unpaid liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue.
Wilson County Election Commission Chancellor C.K. Smith ruled that the city must pay WCS and the LSSD the judgment plus some 4.5% more in interest. Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty told The Tennessean right after Smith's ruling was made that the city would soon be evaluating whether to appeal the decision, but Vice Mayor James Maness told the Lebanon Democrat no such appeal is likely to occur.
"I do not plan to appeal the decision," Maness said. "On Friday the vote was 3-0 to make a lump sum payment to the county." The mayor and Commissioner Art Giles were both absent for the vote taken on Friday -- the afternoon after the ruling was made, but Maness joined with Commissioners Ray Justice and Jennifer Milele in a vote that unanimously decided to pay what's owed.
Previous commission meetings featured the commission grappling with the idea that the amount the city owed should have been negotiable, which was the crux of the dispute. This was based on the argument that the city waived fees on the school district's capital projects within city limits for years, a sentiment the mayor also communicated to news media when suggesting that an appeal might be imminent.
The entire commission did not necessarily hold his view, however.
"It is unfortunate this went to court in the first place," Maness said. "I will be very happy to have this issue behind us."
While the vote taken Friday does not inherently rule out an appeal, it makes an appeal less likely, and according to Maness, no such appeal has been formally discussed with the commission.
"I can't speak for the rest of the commission," Maness said. "Someone may plan to discuss appealing, but I have not received any indications."
In order to appeal, the commission would have to vote to do so, which would require three votes to constitute a majority decision despite three having already voted to simply forego such an option and pay the district.
Of the nearly half-million-dollar judgment, an approximate 17% is said to be going to the LSSD according to Wilson County Schools Attorney Mike Jennings. The interest to be paid applies to each payment since the original judgment was due.
Hagerty's aforementioned argument, however, would be the basis for appeal under the logic that the city was allegedly always willing to pay but felt deserving of negotiation for a lower amount. The city theoretically deserved this on the basis that it has paid its share of the county taxes since 2013 and that the city has been waiving fees on the school district's building projects within city limits since long before the 2013 discovery.
More recently, fees have not been waived for the district's developments within the city like that of the new Green Hill High School, which starts its first year next fall.