Rising costs and declining revenue expected to impact school budget

By Bob Robinson

Star Staff

   Rising costs of medical and dental insurance, a decline in property tax revenue and a slumping economy are expected to impact the 2002-2003 budget for Elizabethton City Schools.
   At a budget workshop last night, Elizabethton School Board members prioritized capital projects and reviewed potential sources of revenue and expected expenditures for the next fiscal year which begins July 1.
   The board will adopt a 2002-2003 budget at a future meeting.
   On the expense side of the ledger, life, health and dental insurance premiums paid by the board have increased from $906,398 in 2000-2001 to $1,092,097 in 2001-2002 to $1,246,208 in 2002-2003. Health insurance costs increased 15 percent from last year.
   The board also paid 58 percent of the cost of continuing family coverage, or $69,102, in 2001-2002 for its 65 employees.
   On the revenue side, the board is expected to receive little or no increase in sales tax revenue, which increased 3.2 percent last year.
   Board revenue from property taxes, which increased 3 percent last year, is expected to drop by $50,000 when Alcoa closes its plant in Elizabethton in June.
   The board requested the cost on the following capital projects:
   * Establishing a new media center at T.A. Dugger (TAD) Junior High School;
   * Converting the former recreation room into two classrooms at Harold McCormick (HMC);
   * Installing new doors at TAD, HMC and Elizabethton High School recommended by the State Fire Marshal; and,
   * Replastering the pool at EHS.
   At its regular monthly meeting held after the budget workshop, the board:
   * Approved Merrill Lynch Services' investment in mutual funds program offered to employees through payroll deduction;
   * Approved new hire Jim Hyder, bus driver;
   * Accepted resignations of Jason Wright, West Side, and Lynn Valdez, Harold McCormick, both child care workers;
   * Expressed regret over the death of Peggy Graybeal, custodian at TAD, who "always had a smile on her face," according to Dr. Judy Blevins, director of schools.
   * Approved leaves of absence for Margaret Ingram, Elizabethton High School (EHS) teacher assistant; Barbara Simerly, central office custodian; Jane Radford, East Side cook; and Lisa Watson, EHS teacher;
   * Approved substitute teachers Anna Hurley, Whitney Shell Odom, Laura Shoun and Beth Stevens;
   * Approved the purchase of five iMac computers and two individual iMacs for HMC from Apple Computer, Inc., totaling $5,293;
   * Approved the purchase of one bundle of AlphaSmarts for instructional use at HMC, totaling $6,400;
   * Approved the purchase of one Telecor Intercom System for East Side Elementary School, totaling $5,214; and,
   * Accepted the bid of Emerald Specialty Vehicles, Inc., Knoxville, totaling $36,498, for the purchase of one 28-passenger school bus, 2002 Thomas Body, for the Early Childhood Learning Center.
   The board also received evaluation forms for Dr. Judy Blevins, director of schools, to be returned to board chairman Dr. Jonathan Bremer by Feb. 4.
   Holly and Haley Sheffield, EHS seniors, sang a beautiful duet to open the board meeting. Board vice chairman Bob Berry was unable to attend last night's meeting.
   The next scheduled board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, in the Mack Pierce Board Room, 804 S. Watauga Ave., Elizabethton.
   In addition to Dr. Bremer and Berry, other members of the school board are Judy Richardson, Catherine Armstrong and Dr. Robert Sams.