published Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Bradley schools seeking liquor tax from Cleveland

James Logan, attorney for Bradley County, addresses the Bradley County Board of Education.
James Logan, attorney for Bradley County, addresses the Bradley County Board of Education.
Photo by Paul Leach.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Board of Education intends to pursue $720,000 in previously collected liquor tax revenues by Cleveland.

According to a recent study performed by the County Technical Assistance Service on behalf of Bradley County and the school system, that is the amount of money that the city should have distributed to Bradley County Schools over the last 30 years.

In a special called meeting Wednesday, the Bradley County Board of Education voted 5­-1 to seek the liquor tax funds in question, with board member Chris Turner voting against the measure.

Board member Nicholas Lillios was absent.

Prior to the vote, Turner expressed frustration that the board could not see the amended final draft of the resolution before the vote. The resolution underwent a number of changes during the meeting to soften its tone and implement more board control regarding possible litigation.

Turner had earlier voiced concern that the Cleveland City Council might interpret the original language of the document as “an aggressive posture” by the Bradley County Board of Education, citing the phrase “pay over.”

“What we are doing here today is to establish our position that we believe, according to the law, the schoolchildren of Bradley County are really due that money,” said Johnny McDaniel, director of Bradley County Schools.

A good solution to the proper distribution of those funds doesn’t require Cleveland to write a check to the county school system, he said. Instead, McDaniel said that Cleveland could consider reducing the number of payments that Bradley County Schools owes in a $1.4 million sales tax revenue settlement to the city.

The failure to properly distribute funds from the collection of consumption of alcohol on premises taxes dates back to 1981 and also includes those collected by Bradley County, according to the CTAS study. CTAS data also show that Bradley County owes $80,000 to the county school system and $39,000 to Cleveland City Schools.

The Bradley County Commission recently voted 14­-0 in support of the pursuit of the liquor tax funds made by the county school board, “waiving any conflict or potential conflict of interest” that might exist between the county and the school system in regard to the matter.

Cleveland properly distributed liquor tax revenues, said City Manager Janice Casteel previously, citing discussions with state revenue officials.

“The Department of Revenue does not get involved in local disputes,” said James Logan, attorney for Bradley County, citing a recent discussion with the agency’s public information officer.

The Executive Committee of the Bradley School Board, along with McDaniel and Logan, plans to meet with the Cleveland City Council and City Manager Janice Casteel to discuss the matter further.

Contact Paul Leach at paul.leach.press@gmail.com

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