Schools to increase county taxes by maximum

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 7, 2001

[06/07/01] The question of where the Vicksburg Warren School district will find money for the 2001-02 school year was answered Wednesday night with trustees deciding on a maximum increase in local taxes.

The district’s five trustees agreed to seek a 4 percent increase for the budget year that starts July 1. To get any more would require seeking public approval in a referendum.

“I am not trying to make it sound not like a tax increase, because it is a tax increase, ” Superintendent Donald Oakes said.

Dale McClung, the district’s director of financial operations, said he estimates the Warren County Board of Supervisors, which must formally enact the increase if given final approval by the school board, will increase the millage rate from 42.81 to 44.63. The new rate will generate $716,000 more from taxpayers through their rent, mortgages and car tags. It increases the local portion of the school district budget to about $20 million of the total.

Meeting last week, trustees considered options to meet operational costs including borrowing money on the 16th Section land or using casino revenue.

The failure of the state to provide all funds promised this year combined with rising costs of running the school district has put a strain on buying supplies and paying for utilities and diesel fuel, Oakes said.

“We are on razor’s edge right now, not knowing what the next six months will bring,” Oakes said.

Overall, Mississippi’s income for this year is about $200 million below projections the Legislature used for budgeting. That has translated here into a $550,000 reduction in Minimum Foundation Funds, money used for teacher salaries, health insurance and overall transportation costs, for the 9,200-student district.

Under law, school trustees must now advertise their intent to raise local taxes and set a public hearing to answer any questions from the public. The hearing will be in the Warren Central Junior High School’s library on June 21 at 5 p.m.

The 15-year-old district has an operational budget of $53.2 million this year. After its founding with a budget of about $10 million a year, the district’s trustees got near-maximum tax increases yearly until casinos in 1993 and property reappraisal in 1997 created major income surges. If given final approval, the increased local taxes for schools will be the first millage increase in about eight years.

To date, state shortages have been the $550,000 in the Mininum Program and $433,000 in Education Enhancement Funds used to buy supplies.

Otherwise in their meeting, trustees:

Approved a purchase of a Ford Crown Victoria for use by district personnel. The vehicle will be purchased off the state contract list and will be used primarily by the Fixed Asset/Safety manager.

Accepted the recommendation to bid for Science and English textbooks.

Went into executive decision for a personnel matter, but announced no decision.