School chief gets 10% pay hike|[7/01/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 1, 2005

Trustees approve budget for new year

Superintendent James Price received a raise and a contract extension, and the budget he and his staff had presented was approved at a school board meeting Thursday.

Trustees voted unanimously in executive session to raise Price’s annual salary 10.6 percent, from $104,000 to $115,000, and extended his contract two years, board president and District 4 trustee Jan Daigre said.

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“I’m pleased that the board has extended my contract and pay, but more importantly I am thrilled at the level of support that was shown not only for me but for all the district,” Price said after the meeting.

The actions came on the last day of the Vicksburg Warren School District’s fiscal year.

Price was about to enter his third year as superintendent. Trustees voted unanimously to make his raise effective for the fiscal year that began today and extended the expiration date of his contract from 2006 until 2008, Daigre said.

The board declined to give Price a raise at the same point last year, after his first year on the job, citing a lack of room in the district’s budget.

Since that decision, elections have been held for two of the five positions on the board and both have changed hands. The board’s two new members are Jerry Boland of District 1 and Tommy Shelton of District 5.

District 3 trustee Betty Tolliver was also present at Thursday’s meeting, Daigre said, adding that Zelmarine Murphy of District 2 was consulted by phone on the matter and said she was in complete agreement with the board’s decision.

Price and other senior members of the VWSD administration completed last month what he said was a comprehensive budget review that lasted about three weeks and involved administrators and department heads from schools throughout the district. The budget has about 10,000 items on 200 pages.

The result was a draft spending plan of $70.9 million that was presented to the board at its June 16 meeting. That budget was down $1.8 million, 1.8 percent, from the one for the 2004-2005 school year, $72.1 million. In the review the administration cut enough budgeted spending to avoid recommending a local tax hike.

That task was accomplished despite the passage of a state budget that would leave the district about $3 million short of the funding it would have received under a state-set funding formula and a mandate from the Legislature that all teachers be given pay raises of 8 percent.

The greatest part of the reduction in expenditures can be attributed to changes in district policy such as the plan that takes effect this year to return the district’s attendance policy for students in elementary schools to zoned districts, Price said. A modified-choice plan had been in place.

“I think it says a lot that we were all in agreement,” Daigre said of the board’s decision to give Price a raise. “We think an awful lot of the job he’s done with the budget constraints. We’re happy with the job he and the executive staff have done.”

One object of the review was to develop a self-contained budget for the next fiscal year, ending the practice of carrying over funds from year-to-year, Price said. Price and his executive staff of five came within about $3 million of that goal and the review would continue.

In the only item on the board’s agenda for Thursday, it approved the budget unanimously without changes, Daigre said.