A longstanding legal battle between Wilson County Schools and the city of Mt. Juliet may come to an end on Monday.
The school system jointly filed a lawsuit against the city with the Lebanon Special School District in 2014, seeking reimbursement for unpaid liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue, and the Wilson County Board of Education approved a proposal to settle the matter at its meeting held Monday.
"The city of Mt. Juliet will give up their right to appeal, and if accepted by (the board) and approved by the Mt. Juliet City Commission next Monday evening, it will complete this matter," Wilson County Schools Attorney Mike Jennings said. "My suggestion would be that if you decide to accept that proposal, you make it contingent on the Mt. Juliet City Commission acting upon it at their meeting a week from tonight, and that your money be quoted to you within 15 days."
Mt. Juliet's decision comes after Wilson County Election Commission Chancellor C.K. Smith's November 2019 ruling that the city pay the district $472,660 plus 4.5% interest. Jennings said approximately 17% of that amount will go toward the Lebanon Special School District.
The Mt. Juliet City Commission had previously discussed whether that amount should have been negotiable, based on the argument that the city waived fees on the school district's capital projects in city limits for years.
Jennings' recommendation was ultimately approved 5-1, with board member Bill Robinson voting against and board member Linda Armistead absent from the meeting.
The board also discussed the potential for rezoning to disrupt students involved in school programs when Green Hill High School opens next school year.
Students who will be seniors that year have the option to remain at their current school, but board member Wayne McNeese's motion to include juniors was defeated 2-4 (he and board member Kimberly McGee voted in favor).
"From an athletic standpoint or for extracurricular activities from band or chorus to drama, I'd like to see those students have the option to stay at their current school," McNeese said, citing feedback Mt. Juliet High School Head Football Coach Trey Perry gave the board during its work session. "Those current sophomores, to be juniors, if you're looking at Green Hill High School will not have a varsity season. That's one of the reasons why (I support this)."
Perry said his concern is that with the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association entering a new classification the year Green Hill opens, rezoning could disrupt efforts to build a program. He cited Nolensville High School's 2016 opening as a model Green Hill could follow.
"A lot of its students came from Ravenwood High School's population," he said. "I can only think of football, but the reason they were successful immediately and continued their success because they made sure their first year going into a classification cycle that they played junior varsity only (the school as a whole only accepted freshmen
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and sophomores its first year)."
Perry added that the possibility of sports like baseball, basketball and softball expanding from three classes to four could have far-reaching impact on the county's athletic programs, and that rezoning could disrupt strength and conditioning training that happens between seasons.
However, other board members and school officials were concerned about the motion's impact in other areas and opted to take another month to consider options.
"I think you're opening a lot of legal issues, that you're discriminating on the other classes," Deputy Director of Wilson County Schools Mickey Hall said. "We would have schools with no kids in them if you did that, and I think you've got some legal issues with other groups that are going to be asking to do what we're talking about for the football players."
Board member Bill Robinson said he was not comfortable voting on the motion without more time to consider it.
"We need a plan that's acceptable, that would work for people to look at and see, is this a rational move or are we just creating other issues?" he said. "I think (we should do that) rather than just throwing this on the table without even looking."
If the board opts to approve a revised version of McNeese's motion, it would need to do so at its next meeting to coincide with the county schools' Feb. 1-28 open enrollment period.
The Wilson County Board of Education's next work session will be held at 5 p.m. Jan. 30, and its next regular session meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 3. Both meetings will take place at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon.