County schools negotiate budget

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

Carter County School board members have been holding semi-monthly budget meetings in an effort to rectify local numbers and prepare the 2003-2004 budget, which will be presented to the board and Superintendent Dallas Williams at the end of May.
   "We try to pass a budget by July 1, but, technically, we have until October to get it passed," said Carter County Schools director of finance, Jerome Kitchens. "We will be required to put in some local dollars for teacher's raises, so we have been looking at options."
   In recent years, the state General Assembly typically hasn't passed its budget until late May or early June. In the upcoming budget, Gov. Phil Bredesen has proposed additional funds for K-12 teacher salary equalization which will raise all local education system teacher salaries to a minimum $37,000.
   Assistant Superintendent Pat Hicks has been working on negotiations with Carter County Education Association (CCEA) representative, Larry Heaton, to determine how local and state dollars will be allocated to increase teacher salaries.
   "All teachers will receive some money. We are considering letting experience play a role in allocating dollars, but that is only one possible solution," Kitchens said.
   An estimated 17,161 teachers in 75 school systems will benefit if the state budget is passed. All counties are required to match some state funds with local dollars.
   "Another concern with the new budget is that we are expecting a 15 percent increase in insurance premiums, so we will have to line things up so that we can account for that," Kitchens said.
   Kitchens said the county is working to complete projects that were proposed on the old budget, such as getting new roofing placed on seven county schools. Hampton High School is also getting new bleachers built for its football field.
   "An architect met with us and surveyed the work needed for the roofing projects, and we're working down the list on it," he said.