At least one county school board member has expressed doubts about the proposed funding for an entertainment district surrounding the Cumberland Center, off Highway 231 in Lebanon.
The Cumberland Center Development District was to be the topic of an interlocal meeting Thursday night between Lebanon City Council, Wilson County Commissioners and Wilson County Board of Education at Lebanon City Hall.
Under current plans, the 257-acre entertainment district, to be anchored by a future event center, would draw in restaurants and retailers to the designated area off of Highway 231. An agreement would be set in place in which the city surrenders its portion of the sales tax generated within that district to a “savings account” for the mixed-use event center.
In order to further the construction progress of the estimated $40 million center, Craighead said the county could also surrender their half of the 2.25-cent sales tax revenue – 82 percent of which goes to Wilson County Schools and 18 percent of which goes to Lebanon Special School District.
The Wilson Post spoke to Don Weathers, chairman of the county school board, prior to the meeting. Although he was out of town on business and said he would be unable to attend, Weathers made it clear that he had doubts about supporting the venture at present time.
“My initial reaction is that it would be hard for us to give up revenue when we are having to contend with so much growth in our school system,” he said. “It would have to be a pretty unusual situation for me to be for it.”
In an earlier interview, Craighead said that although they are asking the school system to forgo revenue for a period of time, they would get an “immediate return” once the center is built. As a repayment, the public high schools would get to host their graduations and proms in the center, set up to hold 7,000 in floor seating, free of charge. The center would also be available for hockey games and practices, in-service training and conferences, rent free.
Under the plan, the fund would be operated by a six-member board including the city and county mayors, two county commissioners, two city council members – and possibly two school board members if they elected to join. In addition, the fund can only hold up to $10 million at the end of each calendar year and the board would return funds exceeding that $10 million to those revenue sources – the city, county and schools.
“Once the center is paid off, the board has the authority to release all or part of committed revenues back to appropriate sources,” the agreement reads. “It is the responsibility of the board to assure sufficient revenues are in place or will continue to be available as to not place any hardship or burden on any local governing entities.”
For a follow-up from the meeting, visit www.wilsonpost.com later on Friday.
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at email@example.com.