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Unicoi County budget committee adds to list of unfunded requests

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Jun 26, 2018 at 9:28 PM

ERWIN — Already faced with unfunded budget requests equal to more than a 50-cent increase on Unicoi County’s property tax rate, the County Commission’s Budget Committee on Tuesday added requests for a new school bus and $49,500 in economic development board funding to its list.

With a balanced $22,447,454 Unicoi County Schools’ budget presented to the committee by Director of Schools John English, English requested county funding for a new school bus estimated at $90,000.

English told the committee the school system has historically replaced its aging busses at a pace of three busses per year but because of the several major school improvement projects completed recently without new funding from the county, the system has only replaced one bus in the past two years.

With most of the essential renovations now complete, he said the system’s hope is to get back on schedule with its school bus rotation.

Because of a decrease in school revenues that has occurred in step with a decline in enrollment and because of its awareness the county’s budget situation, English said the system has also eliminated 19 positions over the past three years.

He said capital improvements still on deck include a new roof and a new heating and air conditioning system for Rock Creek Elementary School followed by similar improvements at Unicoi Elementary School.

The school system’s long range needs include new seating and a new track at the the heavily used Gentry Stadium, a $1.4 million renovation of the high school gymnasium and new wiring and lighting and sound systems for the high school auditorium estimated at $250,000.

Commissioner Glenn White told English the full commission would see what it could do on the school bus.

White also said the newly configured commission coming on board after the August election may be able to bundle the county’s outstanding funding needs together and “do something” in the coming year.

The $49,500 funding request presented to the committee by the county’s Joint Economic Development Board on Tuesday is earmarked for the launch of a new tourism department within the JEDB.

JEDB Director Tyler Engle told the committee the development board is proposing the county fund the request with a percentage of its hotel and motel tax collections and excise fees paid to the county by rafting company operators.

White told Engle the committee would likewise take the request to the full commission.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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