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School district sticking with maximum increase in taxes

[07/27/01] Even though state funds cut from Mississippi public schools were restored earlier this month, the Vicksburg Warren School District will stick with its plan for a maximum increase in local property taxes this year.

“The point is, we don’t know where we’re going to be in December,” Superintendent Donald Oakes told trustees and others at Thursday night’s board meeting. “It behooves us to project decreases in what we’re going to get.”

On July 2 one day into the 2001-02 fiscal year Gov. Ronnie Musgrove returned $13.5 million in reductions made during the last fiscal year, with $10 million going to education. The Vicksburg Warren School District got $171,000. Its total deficit last year, including cuts in state funding and a local privilege tax, was $406,334.

In June, before Musgrove’s announcement, the district’s trustees voted to increase the local millage rate by 4 percent the maximum allowed without putting the issue to vote. The reason given was the state shortfall, but even without that as a factor, trustees affirmed their plan to seek the cash from higher taxes on real estate, homes, business, cars and other personal property.

The tax increase will generate $716,000 an additional during 2002, translating to another $14.32 if paid equally by each resident of Warren County.

The district adopted a $62 million budget June 30, and expects to receive nearly $55 million in revenue from federal, state and local taxes and 16th section land.

Oakes also commented on Monday’s legislation by Musgrove to fund teacher pay raises regardless of state income growth. In a special session, the governor removed restrictions on a law passed last year that says Mississippi teachers would get pay raises if the state’s budget grows at least 5 percent in a year.

“That’s great for teachers, and I’m proud for them,” Oakes said. “But, the next four or five years, we’re going to feel an impact on our budget.”

The Vicksburg Warren School district employs 137 teachers whose salaries are not paid from state money. That means the district will have to provide enough money for those teachers to have raises, too.

Trustees also scheduled a special meeting for Aug. 15 to approve amendments to the 2001-02 budget and finalize the local tax increase.

In a separate issue, trustees agreed to hire Ollye Johnson, who has been employed with the district for more than 30 years, as principal of the Center for Alternative Programs. Johnson had been an administrative assistant at the former Grove Street Elementary and had taught the overage junior high students at CAP.

Charles Sanders, who had been the principal of CAP since 1992, resigned this month. Annie Straughter, who was assistant principal, was transferred to Vicksburg Intermediate, where she will also serve as assistant principal.