Legislation could help schools pay for higher heating bills

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 7, 2001

[02/07/01] A bill pending in the Mississippi Senate could help the Vicksburg Warren School District pay heating bills that have already pushed costs above amounts budgeted for this year.

Senate Bill 3062 would allow the state to take up to $10 million from Working Cash-Stabilization Fund and give it to the Department of Education to help school districts pay high natural gas bills.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard of that bill,” Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Donald Oakes said. “But, I’m going to call Senator Mike Chaney and ask him to support it.” Chaney represents Warren and Issaquena counties.

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Oakes said that since July 1, when the school fiscal year began, the district has spent $17,000 more for heating than had been budgeted for the entire fiscal year. The district had allocated $63,250 for the whole year but has spent $80,250.

“We will have to shift some money around in the budget,” he said and added that will be difficult.

Friday, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove ordered a 3 percent cut in the state Minimum Program Funding, Oakes said.

A Senate-passed bill would divert money from the oil and gas severance tax to the state’s minimum funding budget.

“If that bill does not pass, the information we received last Friday said our reduction will be over $1 million for this year,” Oakes said. “If it does pass, our reduction will be cut to $762,000.”

The heating supplement bill was introduced by Sens. Willie Simmons of Cleveland, Terry Burton of Newton, Barbara Blackmon of Canton, Robert L. Johnson III of Natchez, Sampson Jackson of Preston, Alice Hardin of Jackson, Delma Furniss of Rena Lara, David Jordan of Greenwood, John Horhn of Jackson and Johnnie Walls Jr. of Greenville.

The Vicksburg Warren District operates 12 buildings as schools and owns several others for administrative purposes. Most are outside Vicksburg’s corporate limits and receive heating fuels from a variety of sources.