City school board approves amended budget

By Julie Fann
star staff

Long periods of silent deliberation accompanied the Elizabethton City School Board's decision to approve its amended 2002-2003 projected budget just in time to meet Wednesday's City Charter deadline. For two days, City Schools Financial Director, Cynthia Roberts, re-figured budget amounts so that approximately 62 personnel will continue to receive family insurance coverage.
   The amended budget increases tuition revenue by $69,221 and reduces expenditures by $56,397 so that insurance funds can be raised by $125,618. As a result, the federal projects budget received the most damage, taking a $21,141 cut from its operational expenses account, leaving Federal Projects Director, Carol Whaley, almost nothing to work with.
   "When you increase salaries each year, or staff increases, and then insurance comes in; that amount was so high, so much higher than what we had expected; that has to come from (federal project) operational expenses. We may have to cut an Early Learning position. A teaching position," she said. Whaley and Roberts explained that Contracted Services and the Early Learning budgets are a big part of federal projects.
   The amended budget allows for an expected 15 percent increase in insurance premiums for employees; however, Roberts said premiums may actually increase by 24 or 30 percent. The city pays 100 percent of individual insurance coverage and 58 percent of family coverage. The new premiums will go into effect Jan. 1, 2003. "If we in fact do get what they are estimating; if it is a 24 percent or 30 percent (increase) the board will have to go back to the board and look at how it effects it (the budget). I don't have those numbers because they were preliminary estimates," Roberts said.
   City School Board Chairman, Jonathan Bremer, said he believed a position, or positions, may need to be cut if insurance premiums are raised. He also expressed the anxiety the board is experiencing as it waits on the state to approve its new budget. "We don't know what we're getting from the state either. I mean, all this could change if we get bad news. I feel like we're trying to do this backwards almost," he said.
   Roberts said the state usually sends her an estimate in April or May regarding their estimated projections. "They haven't even bothered with that, so what I look for them to do is maybe send a final estimate in July or August." City Schools Superintendent, Judy Blevins, said the state also hasn't contacted the school board concerning the funds they are supposed to receive for this year's fourth quarter. "That's about $140,000," she said.