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Mountain Youth Academy seeks discount incentives to stay, expand

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

The Johnson County Commission met for its November meeting on Thursday, November 19. During both the commission meeting and budget meeting, officials discussed a recent request from Mountain Youth Academy related to its upcoming expansion. According to Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor, the organization has requested a large number of discount incentives and stated they would move to Bristol unless their “demands” are met but meeting them would put a significant financial strain on the community.
Mountain Youth Academy currently rents an old hospital space from the county at $72,000 a year, or $6,000 a month. Academy officials want to tear down that current building and rebuild a new campus large enough for 105 attendees by 2027. Projected costs fall around $30 million, according to Mayor
Taylor. For this project, Academy officials demand ten years tax-free, possession of the rented property, and 10 acres of land. They agreed
to pay the original rent cost for only one year. Losing this money would cause a local tax increase of two cents.
Mayor Taylor countered with a five-year deal, where Academy officials pay the rent price for five years and then slowly increase to the set commercial rate on the then depreciated building. According to Mayor Taylor, government higher-ups are unlikely to give incentives to businesses other than manufacturing companies.
“We can’t ask our taxpayers to subsidize their business,” Commissioner Freddy Phipps pointed out.
Mountain Youth Academy is a United Health Services (UHS) owned business with a healthy stock market price. Common stock in UHS is $131.35 per share at the time of this article. For comparison, multinational corporation chain Walmart’s current cost is $151.66 per share.
“It’s insulting,” Commissioner Rick Snyder complained. “They think we’re just some dumb country hicks from Johnson County that will do just whatever they want.”
After further discussion, the County Commissioners agreed to stand their ground with Mayor Taylor’s previous offer. If Mountain Youth Academy does decide to leave, Johnson County will lose out on jobs, but the Academy will also have a net loss. Not only would they need to reapply for building permits, rehire new workers, get new blueprints, and find a new site, but they also would be moving from a Tier Four county to a Tier Two county, which means any incentives offered would be lower. According to Assessor of Deeds Matthew Lewis, Sullivan County’s taxes would also cost the Academy an additional $52,000 per year.
The Johnson County Commission and Budget Committee meet the third Thursday of each month at the Johnson County Courthouse. For more information on the
County Commission, visit johnsoncountytn.gov.