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Sullivan North to receive nearly $127,000 for scholarships

June 9th, 2012 10:04 pm by Rick Wagner

KINGSPORT — More college scholarships will be going out to future Sullivan North High School graduates, thanks to a trust fund set up by the late Bill Neil.

The amount is almost $127,000.

The former Sullivan County commissioner and owner of Neil Supply Co. on Bloomingdale Pike before he died in 2003 set up trust funds for family members and the school system, earmarking the school money for North scholarships.

Neil served on the 24-member commission at the same time as North Principal Richard Carroll.

“This is something that could benefit a lot of kids for a long period of time,” Carroll said Friday.

“I knew Bill Neil for many, many years, and he was a great, great guy,” Carroll said. “He supported Ketron High School for many, many years, He supported North High School.”

Carroll said Neil would loan North free use of equipment needed for work there.

In one of the last steps in getting the money into a scholarship fund or trust, the Sullivan County Board of Education voted 7-0 Tuesday night to accept a proposed settlement of $126,987.13 from the William Neil Estate Trust to be earmarked for college scholarships for Sullivan North students.

A judge still must approve the settlement.

Board attorney Pat Hull said the school system was the last party to agree to the proposed settlement from the trust — the rest being his remaining child and grandchildren, who hadn’t yet collected their trust funds.

Hull and Carroll said the settlement of the estate has taken a long time and a lot of money, with Carroll saying initially the amount was to have been much larger.

However, Hull said inheritance taxes ran about $1 million, and the administrator spent another $750,000 cleaning up various Neil-owned properties to prepare them for sale. A tough real estate market in recent years also meant lower sales prices.

“There certainly was a time I didn’t think we’d get anything,” Hull said.

Neil’s children were to receive $1 million each and five grandchildren up to $100,000 each, half that amount dependent on getting a college degree by age 24, Hull said.

However, complicating things was that one child got ill and died with lots of expenses a few years after the father. In addition, some grandchildren didn’t get a college degree in time and thus forfeited part of their share of the money, which along with some leftover money from the deceased child went to the school system’s share.

In the end, Hull said, Regions Bank and the Holmes and Stice law firm handling the estate were able to fund everything at about 42 percent, not 100 percent.

Only two grandchildren are left who haven’t turned 25, one 15 and one 19, but Hull said bank officials assure him they would get the roughly $42,000 each coming to them regardless of their collegiate careers.

All remaining heirs have signed off on the settlement, which must go before a judge for final approval.

“We could come out worse,” Hull said, adding that a judge could approve or amend the settlement without BOE approval.

After questions by BOE member Jim Kiss of Bloomingdale, Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said the money likely would be handled through North. Hull said he wasn’t sure if a trust fund in the school or simply a dedicated account was needed.

In addition, the number and size of scholarships to be given out and when they would begin also must be determined, Yennie and Hull said.

However, Yennie said Friday he hoped the Neil scholarship or scholarships would start for the Class of 2013.

“We’re happy to get whatever the amount is,” Carroll said of North, which administers three other scholarship programs. “To me, that’s the way it ought to be. We know the kids and who is deserving of it.”

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