School board passes 2004 budget

By Thomas Wilson

   The Elizabethton Board of Education passed the 2003-2004 school budget Thursday night with marginal salary increases for teachers and paraprofessional personnel.
   The budget includes a 1.5 percent increase in salary and step pay increase for teachers and paraprofessional system employees.
   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.
   Among 15 city and county school systems in Northeast Tennessee, Elizabethton City ranks 8th in per pupil expenditures at $6,289 per student. The deficit is expected to be covered via county capital reserves included as part of the system's $1.32 million fund balance. The budget covers the 2004 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
   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 for the system's 300 employees.
   The board tabled three policy revisions including one modifying authority for 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 two other policy revisions affected the naming of city schools and facilities and in-service and staff development for system personnel.
   The school system also retired the #1 jersey of Elizabethton High School football standout Jason Witten. Athletic director, Larry Alderson, presented Witten with a plaque and his framed EHS football jersey honoring his achievements as a prep All-American with the Cyclones and as an All-SEC tight end with the University of Tennessee Volunteers.
   Witten was joined by brothers Ryan and Sean -- who had his own #3 jersey retired four years ago -- as well as grandfather and former EHS football coach Dave Rider.
   "I'll always be a Cyclone," declared Witten after receiving the award. The Dallas Cowboys selected Witten in the 3rd round of the NFL draft last month. The Cowboys boast a litany of legendary tight ends including Mike Ditka, Billy Joe Dupree and Jay Novacek.