The Bradley County School Board on Wednesday approved a measure to secure the services of county litigation counsel James F. Logan and the Logan-Thompson law firm in order to work out an arrangement with the city of Cleveland in tax revenue for hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly owed to the Bradley County Schools.
Attorney Logan was retained at the suggestion of the Bradley County Commission and by doing so has waived any conflict of interest that currently or may exist with the commission. He presented to the board a resolution that asks the city of Cleveland to negotiate a plan in which the Bradley County school system would receive the monies owed to them via the Title 57 statute.
Title 57 states that the revenue collected from the liquor by the drink tax in each municipality (county, city, town, etc) must be split 50/50 between the general fund for that local government and the schools that lie within that municipality. Questions have arisen statewide as to whether or not these funds have been dispersed properly or at all in various cities and counties.
Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel had previously stated that the city of Cleveland had disbursed the funds properly and that no money was owed, a fact that attorney Logan quickly refuted. He also outlined the huge increase in liquor tax collected in Bradley County since liquor by the drink sales were expanded beyond private clubs in 2002, citing a report that showed that since that time the revenue has increased from about $24,000 to about $1.9 million.
Attorney Logan went on to outline the “Maryville Opinion”, which states that there is no statute of limitations between governmental bodies; therefore it is within bounds for the Bradley County Board of Education to pursue the tax revenue that he said it is owed.
While the Cleveland City Council has decided to wait for the state legislature to make a final decision on how the money should be disbursed, attorney Logan said it would be to both the city and county governments’ advantage to settle the issue between themselves, “The issue of how the legislature might address the distribution of the liquor tax (revenue) to education could impact any claims made after the legislature passes, but if a claim is made before the change in the law they cannot make it retro active,” he said.
Under the understanding that not only is the Bradley School system owed approximately $100,000, but that acting now could preserve a degree of local autonomy and possibly save both Bradley County and the city of Cleveland some money and difficulty in the future, the Bradley County board was eager to pass the resolution, as members said they have the full support of the County Commission.
School Board member Troy Weathers quickly moved to approve the resolution, Board Chair Vicki Osment Beaty followed with a second. Board member Chris Turner took issue with the language of the resolution, saying that he felt it was worded in a way that he felt could be misconstrued as adversarial. Mr. Weathers disagreed, and did not think that any more time needed to be spent quibbling over wording. After much cautioning from Mr. Turner over the language of the resolution and the importance of maintaining a spirit of cooperation between the local governing bodies, board member Christy Critchfield requested an amendment to the resolution that would require the board’s executive committee to meet with the Cleveland City Council in order to hash out the details before any official legal action is taken.
Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel said, “In part what we are doing here today is to establish our position is that we believe according to the law that Bradley County Schools and the children of Bradley County are due that money.”
The resolution passed by a vote of 5 to 1 with Mr. Turner casting the lone dissenting vote over what he felt was a lack of clarity in the resolution’s language. Vice-Chair Nicholas Lillios was absent.
School Board member Christy Critchfield and Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel
- Photo2 by Tony Eubank