ECS Board to consider budget

By Thomas Wilson

   The Elizabethton Board of Education will consider tonight passage of the school system's 2004 fiscal year budget that faces a deficit of more than $617,000.
   According to the ECS budget summary, general fund revenues plus federal projects and the child nutrition fund is projected at $14.7 million while total system expenditures ring in at $15.3 million. The budget covers the 2004 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The deficit is expected to be covered via county capital reserves included as part of the system's $1.32 million fund balance.
   For the third consecutive year, a sharp rise in insurance costs for system employees will deliver a significant blow to the system's budget. The budget factors in an estimated 15 percent increase in health insurance costs and a 5 percent rise in dental insurance costs to cover the system's 300 employees. That translates to an increase of approximately $339,000 to $1.7 million for the 2003-2004 fiscal year.
   The system's allocation from the city of Elizabethton remains essentially unchanged from last year at $2.3 million. The city slashed its own budget 13 percent last year and is facing deeper cuts in state shared revenues this year.
   Local sales taxes account for $2.6 million while the funding from the state's Basic Education Plan funding formula makes up the lion,s share of system revenues at $7.3 million.
   Salaries and employee benefits comprise a combined $10.4 million of the $13.3 million general fund expenditures for the system, according to the budget. The budget includes a 1.5 percent increase in salary and step pay increase for teachers and paraprofessional system employees.
   The Elizabethton Education Association had submitted a request for a 5-percent pay raise for the system's teachers and paraprofessional employees.
   The system's budget operates on projected actual sales tax revenues grew 2.4 percent during fiscal year 2002 while property revenues rose 4.5 percent over the same period. Those projections reflected new revenue amounts to top at around $400,000 this year.
   In other business, the board is also expected to vote on modifying a Board of Education policy regarding travel expense allowances for school personnel.
   Under the revised policy proposal, the director of schools would no longer have authority to grant travel expenses to personnel without consent from the board.
   The revised policy would also require travel expenses to be incorporated in the operational budget of the system's program involved in the travel expense.
   The system's FY 2004 budget cuts $13,000 in travel expenditures from the general fund budget.