Guest column: Alcohol revenue would give boost to Pigeon Forge schools

Feb. 17, 2013 @ 11:07 PM

It’s an annual ritual in Pigeon Forge: Would you like to buy some wrapping paper? How about some candy?

Our children, not to mention our parents, don’t entirely understand why students have to work part-time as door-to-door salesmen, but they know that if they don’t, their classrooms will fall even further behind those in Gatlinburg.

To get the kids to buy into it we tell them if they sell so much they can go to the mega-party. So we pay out dollars we can’t afford to spend, because we don’t want our kids to feel left out and our parents did the same for us when we needed it.

I have a front-row seat to this process. I choose to send my children to Pigeon Forge schools. I made that choice because I love this community, but it’s harder and harder to pretend that my children are getting the same opportunities as those in Sevierville and Gatlinburg when they have to spend time selling junk to help pay for much needed school supplies, materials and technology. Last fundraiser, we raised $1,400 in two weeks of stretched budgets and hard selling.

As it turns out, since last November’s approval of the liquor-by-the-drink referendum, more than three times that amount has been earmarked for Pigeon Forge schools. And that’s coming from only a few weeks of alcohol sales at just handful of restaurants with a liquor license. Once sales are fully up and running, annual education revenues are estimated to surpass Gatlinburg’s $453,825 and cross the half-million mark.

That’s why I’m supporting alcohol sales in the upcoming re-vote on this issue on March 14. In addition to being a Pigeon Forge school parent, I’m also the treasurer of the Pigeon Forge Middle School Parent-Teacher Organization, and I know just how badly these funds are needed.

Can we really afford to turn our heads and not accept this money? If it’s available and the state mandates it then I say yes.

Many of the people who oppose this referendum are some of my very dearest friends. If you know me, you know I don’t want to see anyone harmed or exposed to something that may bring sadness to them or their loved ones. I love my kids and all of their friends and only want to give them what we can’t right now. Not to mention the teachers who are constantly taking money out of their own pocket to provide for their classrooms and students.

How many of you know a teacher who is constantly buying their own stuff?

I am a God-fearing, Christian mother, and I bring that attitude to the PTO. We work tirelessly to find ways to raise funds to pay for new technology, tools, materials and supplies for our students and teachers. But we are fighting a losing battle, as business and tax revenue slip across the border to Sevierville and Gatlinburg, which sell mixed drinks in licensed restaurants.

Every dime of that money goes straight to the schools — because that’s state law.

Enough is enough. This isn’t about alcohol. It’s about whether or not we as a community will do for our children what Sevierville and Gatlinburg do for theirs. I’ve spent too many meetings at the PTO, worrying over shrinking budgets, to think we can do anything less.

I encourage everyone to seek the knowledge and fully understand the benefits. It’s easy to point out the negatives. Change is always hard and it’s not easy but it is inevitable. I say we need to embrace it, enforce it and become part of the solution that will ultimately give these kids and teacher’s things they need.

Oh, did I mention: We have cookie dough for sale. If you want to buy some just let us know … just sayin’ – with much delight!

— Jennifer Dyer is a supporter of Forging Ahead, the group that backs liquor by the drink in Pigeon Forge. Email to jdyer1968@yahoo.com.