The Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen has several options for allocating an expected $173,000 in additional revenues for the upcoming 2019-20 fiscal year.
The board learned of the anticipated increase in revenues for the town’s operations during a budget hearing Tuesday, the final one planned in the budgetary preparation process.
Presentations were made by the Greeneville City Schools and several non-profit and governmental agencies requesting appropriations.
The board will now consider those requests along with others presented by town departments in previous hearings and prioritize what they will fund in the next fiscal year.
A first reading of the budget is planned at a called meeting on June 11, while the second and final reading will be at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on June 18.
City Administrator Todd Smith explained that the proposed budget presented to the aldermen for review contained all the current funding levels provided in the town’s current operating budget minus a one-time allocation made for the current fiscal year for the school system to purchase security cameras.
Smith said that town department heads were asked to make reductions in their budgets and requests.
The proposed budget document given to the board does not includes a pay increase for employees or any additional funding for the school system, he added.
The largest request for funding at Tuesday’s hearing came from Greeneville City Schools.
Currently, there is a shortfall of just over $191,000 between projected expenditures and revenues in the district’s proposed general operating budget. Total projected revenues are over $28.1 million, with the total proposed expenditures adding up to over $28.3 million. The school system’s current general operating budget is over $27.4 million.
The school system would like to request an increased allocation to fund three items, said City Schools Chief Financial Officer Ellen Lipe — a kindergarten teacher at EastView Elementary School due to enrollment increases, an additional special education teacher based on an increasing number of students that need more individualized instruction and $66,000 to share the cost for replacing the gymnasium floor at Hal Henard Elementary School.
The school system has been approached by private individuals offering to pay a third of the cost if the district and town pay the other two-thirds, Greeneville Director of Schools Steve Starnes told aldermen.
The budget does include a 3 percent pay increase for all permanent employees, a projected $570,000 increase.
“There was no increase in last year’s budget,” Starnes said. “This would help make up any lost ground with salaries at systems the district competes with for quality teachers.”
In addition to the EastView and special education teachers, the school system has budgeted the addition of a school psychologist to help handle an increased workload of testing and preparing behavioral plans, Starnes said.
The number of tests that the current psychologist has conducted during the school year that just ended is double the number from the previous year, he said.
On the revenue side, the system is expecting an increase in Basic Education Program funds from the state due to increased enrollment and adjustments made by the state, Lipe and Starnes explained.
Also in Tuesday’s hearing, the board reviewed requests from other government and non-profit agencies seeking town funding.
Among those were the Greeneville Civil Service Board, the Greeneville Parking Authority and the 911 Emergency Communications District.
All are seeking funding at the current level: $7,000 for the Civil Service Board, $12,000 for the Parking Authority and $40,000 for 911.
Jerry Bird, 911 director, told the board that the district is facing a shortfall, which will be covered this year with its reserves.
A trip was made to Nashville to seek help from the state with the funding formula, Bird said, and he has learned that other districts are facing the same issues as Greene County.
The state distributes a surcharge on telephone bills to 911 districts, but the charge is based on what the local government had set about eight years ago and has not been increased to reflect rising costs.
The state has sent out a survey to 911 districts that have focused on budgetary issues, which may hopefully cause some changes on that level, Bird said.
A new funding request of $25,000 was submitted by the ALPS Adult Day Services. Mahon Fritts, CEO of the non-profit, said that ALPS plans to open an adult day care service in a location on East Bernard Avenue in September or October.
He explained the ALPS center in Morristown served Greene County residents for years. But funding was discontinued last year for the bus transportation that was used to transport people to Morristown, he said, which resulted in ALPS trying to establish a center here. The local center will be governed by a board of Greene County individuals.
Other funding requests were received from agencies that the town provided funding for in the current budget, including the Child Advocacy Center, the CHIPS Family Violence Center, the Greene County Health Department, the Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad, the Community Ministries Food Bank, Junior Achievement, Keep Greene Beautiful, Main Street: Greeneville, the Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance, the Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation Center, Second Harvest Food Bank and the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association.
The Greene County Partnership has requested about $11,000 more than the $74,000 it received last year for additional industrial site promotion.
In light of National Foster Care Month ending Friday, advocates are imploring people to open their doors a little bit wider and make their families a little bit bigger.
“I think one of the most important things for people to know and understand is that many of these kids just want to be in a safe, stable, loving environment,” said General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr. “So many of these kids are just looking for a home where there is a schedule, there is no chaos and there is structure.”
Bailey said that the number of children placed in foster care in Greene County jumped from 125 to 135 in 2018. In Tennessee, the most typical reason a child is removed from a home is parents’ drug abuse.
According to Bailey, 42 out of every 1,000 children born in Greene County are addicted to opioids. That’s 317 percent higher than the state average.
“Any time that I am asked to remove a child from their home and family it is a tough decision,” said Bailey. “However, the idea of using methamphetamine and parenting children are not two things that occur at the same time. The tougher cases are when a parent has a limited education. Even though they may be trying hard, they just can’t provide a good, safe home for the child.”
Other reasons for removing a child include physical or sexual abuse and neglect of basic necessities — food, water and livable residence.
One Greeneville family began their fostering journey in 2011 by taking a foster parent training course, called PATH. They housed 11 children over the course of five years, resulting in the adoption of two children in March 2017. The Greeneville Sun is not identifying her in order to protect the confidentiality of her children.
“The experience we have had has mostly been parents who have been drug users,” she said. “Several of the birth parents of the children we fostered were also in the foster care system as children, so I do not think they had good role models for parenting and a strong sense of family.”
The ultimate goal for the Department of Child Services is to reunify families in an environment that is better than it was before. But that isn’t always possible.
“It is never ‘cut and dry,’” she said. “In all the families we interacted with, never did I feel the birth parent did not love their child! They were in a bad situation and were struggling with their decisions. I witnessed shame, sorrow and sadness when they were not able to make better decisions and make a better life for their family. It is heartbreaking.”
All but two of her foster children were siblings. So she and her husband typically housed more than one child at the same time. While this creates a stretch in space, resources and time, she said that it was imperative for siblings to stay together throughout their foster care experience.
“They are the one constant in each other’s lives, and having someone who knows what they are going through is important,” she said.
According to the National Foster Youth Institute, a negative fostering experience can result in developmental delays in young children, as well as low academic achievement. High school dropout rates are three times higher for teens in foster care, and fewer than 3 percent graduate from a four-year university.
“A bad foster care experience can have a devastating impact on a child,” said Bailey. “Unfortunately through the years we have had a couple of cases where I believe that we made the situation worse for the child by placing the child in foster care.”
The institute also says there is a higher risk of teen pregnancy, criminal behavior and drug or alcohol abuse later in life.
But those outcomes don’t have to be the case, according to the Greeneville parent. She said that she considers all of the children who have been in her care to be success stories.
“Each situation had its ups and downs, but the children were able to have love and stability while the adults worked through the process,” she said. “We have witnessed children being successful in school, make new friends, enjoy new experiences and learn how to cope with negative behavior. It is our hope that each child who lived in our home will remember something from that experience in a positive way and carry that with them in the future.”
A prospective foster parent does have to meet certain criteria in order to fill the need for children. Requirements depend on the agency, but the Department of Children’s Services says all applicants must be at least 21 years of age. Background checks, fingerprinting, course training, home studies and a health exam are also required, and foster parents must provide proof of a steady income.
Applicants may be single or married, with or without other children.
“These kids just need a chance, but they need foster parents who won’t give up on them,” said Bailey. “We are in need of more foster parents — for kids of all ages — not just babies and toddlers.”
When the Greeneville family received their first call to foster, it was 7 p.m. The children had been removed from their family that day during a court hearing and spent the rest of their time at the DCS office waiting for their caseworkers to find a placement for them.
“We had no idea of the sheer number of children who were needing placement,” she said. “It is overwhelming.”
Luckily, there is an action plan in progress for such situations. Ronda Paulson, a resident of Carter County, founded the Isaiah 117 House after her own experiences with the foster care system. The Isaiah 117 House provides a place for children to stay while they wait to be placed with a foster family.
“Several of the children who have been placed in our home spent hours in the DCS office until a placement was found,” said the Greeneville mother. “The children have already been removed from their families and homes. They are in shock. Having a comfortable place to stay with toys, games and books is so important.”
The Isaiah 117 House also has a fully stocked kitchen, closets full of outfits for all ages and multiple beds for children to rest.
Over $108,000 has been raised to bring the ministry to Greene County. The land for the new home has been purchased, and the Greene County committee hopes to have it up and running by the end of 2019.
While providing and “in between” space for a child is important, Greene County has an intense need for foster parents who will love and care for children, often on a long-term basis.
“I remember thinking that I knew the need was there, but there was no way I could get close with a child and then have to say goodbye and return them to a situation that I thought was less than ideal,” said the Greeneville foster parent.
Then a friend of hers, who also had experience as a foster parent, asked her a question.
“Would you rather have your heart break because you loved a child and had to say goodbye to them, or have a child live in a situation that never showed them love?” she said. “It’s not about me or my feelings at all; it’s about helping and supporting a child who needs a steady, loving environment.”
For more information about foster parenting, visit www.tn.gov/dcs or www.theonmifamily.com.
A man whose body was found Sunday night in the Nolichucky River is a drowning victim, according to preliminary autopsy results.
An autopsy was conducted at the William L. Jenkins Forensic Center at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City.
Sheriff Wesley Holt said Wednesday afternoon that an identity has not been established. Fingerprints were sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab. It’s also possible the body can be identified through dental records, Holt said.
While drowning is the apparent cause of death, Holt said foul play has not been ruled out by investigators.
“I don’t think they’ve ruled out foul play yet, but there’s no signs of stab wounds or gunshot wounds,” Holt said.
The body was discovered about 7:30 p.m. Sunday about a mile upriver from the boat ramp at Birds Bridge on Old Asheville Highway. It had been in the water for at least several days and possibly up to a week, Holt said.
“We were able to lift some fingerprints and send them off to the TBI,” he said.
The odor of decomposition Sunday night caused a person in a boat to approach and locate the body, which was caught on a tree limb along the riverbank. The boater contacted the sheriff’s department, which recovered the body with assistance from the Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad and other first responders.
The man was wearing denim pants and had no shirt. He carried no identification.
Holt said because of relatively low water levels and shoals in the river it’s not likely the body was carried a long distance by the current before it became snagged on the tree limb.
No conclusive link to recent missing person cases in Greene County has been established. Authorities await information that leads to positive identification.
Anyone with information about the possible identity of the man can contact sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Jimmy Morgan at 423-798-1800.