Rep. Flaggs: Give county power over school budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 19, 2002

[07/19/02]State Rep. George Flaggs said Thursday he may introduce legislation to give county supervisors the power to veto increases in the locally funded portion of school budgets.

Speaking to members of the Port City Kiwanis Club, Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, said supervisors’ hands are tied by existing law that directs county boards to impose whatever tax rates are needed to meet a school board’s request.

“We’re going to have to start giving the board of supervisors some recourse to the school board’s budget,” Flaggs said. “Give them the option to send it back.”

Locally, the $62.3 million spending plan approved by Vicksburg Warren School District in June will result in a second consecutive property tax increase for Warren County taxpayers starting in October. The district’s budget will demand about $1.2 million more from owners of vehicles, land and homes with about half of that amount funding $1,000 across-the-board teacher pay raises authorized by school trustees.

State law as written today does not give supervisors the option of rejecting the school board’s budget request or reducing the amount.

“It’s not fair. We’ve got to do something about that,” Flaggs said, adding it may be a topic when the Legislature convenes in January 2003.

Schools operate with a combination of state, local and federal funding. Normally, budget increases are capped, and any request for more than a slight increase triggers the chance for a public veto. That cap was suspended by the Legislature this year, however, since the state failed to fully fund some school-related programs as pledged in the state budget.

Richard George, president of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, said it would be complicated to give the county board authority over the school board.

“That would be a difficult position because you have an elected board to deal with the school system and its operations,” George said.

The Vicksburg Warren County School Board of Trustees is made up of five representatives elected from the same districts as supervisors. Their duties include setting a budget, hiring personnel and making policy for the district.

The school taxes are added to levies set by the City of Vicksburg and Warren County that will be set in September.

County officials have started the budget process and have indicated they will hold the line on taxes. City officials, who also have begun budget hearings, have not said what they are expecting in taxes, but repayment of a $17.5 million bond issue starts in the new year.