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VWSD proposes millage hike

Published 11:12 am Friday, June 20, 2014

Board looks to eliminate deficit

Vicksburg Warren School District trustees took a final look at a proposed $77.5 million fiscal 2015 budget that includes a 4 percent increase in the school district’s millage rate, $82.3 million in expenses and a projected $4.78 million deficit.

The budget review came at a special public hearing on the proposed budget Thursday attended by eight people, about half of them school district employees.

Dale McClung, school district finance director, said the 4 percent hike, if approved by the trustees June 30, would increase the school district millage by about 2 mills, from 47.81 mills to almost 50 mills, depending on the district’s assessed value, and generate about $1.6 million.

That $1.6 million, combined with $3.7 million from the district’s $11 million 16th section land interest fund, would make up the projected deficit.

The 4 percent, he said was the maximum millage increase the board can seek without calling a referendum.

According to information on the proposed budget provided by the school district, local revenue, which includes the property tax, is predicted to provide $28.3 million, or 36.5 percent of the school district’s budget. State funds, through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program are projected to be $35.8 million, or 46.17 percent of the revenue stream.

McClung said the projected MAEP contribution for fiscal 2015 is $216,990 less than the school district received for fiscal 2014. He said the statewide distribution of MAEP funds is based on a school district’s average daily attendance totals, and school districts where student populations are decreasing, “which ours seems to be,” receive less money.

The projected tax increase follows a June 10 special meeting in which Warren Greenlee, an attorney with the Young Law Group in Jackson that specializes in public and bond finance law, recommended the trustees consider increasing its millage and using more of the local tax money that is available to the district.

McClung said he has made similar suggestions in the past.

“I think I suggested this the past two years,” he said, “again, I suggest that.

“Whether or not you approve a resolution (with the millage hike) is the board’s choice,” McClung said. “We will have to make an amendment to our resolution and take that $1million out (if the increase is defeated) and therefore, when we do that, we’re going to have to take $1 million more out of the 16th section interest, transfer it in to make up that $1 million.”

He said that by fiscal 2012-13, the board had emptied its carryover account to cover a deficit.

“Now we’re starting to work on our 16th section,” he said. “I think probably it stops a year-and-a-half from now. We run out of 16th section, and the state will come in here and take us over.”

Trustee Joe Loviza said the proposed 4 percent increase was “something that’s always been available to us (from the county). It’s just that we haven’t asked for it.”

“It’s not a tax increase on the public. It’s always been out there, we just need to ask for it for the schools,” he said.

“It is a tax increase which will be on your car tag, your house, and some of the businesses will be included in this increase,” board vice president James E. Sturgis Jr. said. “It’s a tax increase on all of us.”