Slower sales cut VWSD by $100,000|[07/24/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 24, 2008

Because Mississippians didn’t pay as much sales taxes as expected, the Vicksburg Warren School District will close out its 2007-08 budget with $100,000 less than expected from state sources.

Superintendent Dr. James Price said the shortfall was not unexpected and can be absorbed. “We anticipated tough times and began preparing for something like this to happen,” Price said. “We had enough money in our general fund to cover this and we will be just fine.”

Statewide, the shortfall cost K-12 schools $6 million or one-fourth of 1 percent of the state’s allocation to local school districts. Community colleges and universities had proportional shortfalls.

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The local school district started its budget year July 1, and students start classes Aug. 4.

Price said the shortfall included money set aside for the district’s 601 teachers to purchase supplies for their classrooms. “We advance the money to teachers to help them buy supplies at the beginning of each school year, then build the account back up with checks received from the state throughout the school year,” he said. “So, essentially, we had already spent this money.”

Districts are funded by a combination of local, state and federal dollars plus revenue from leases, donations, food sales, assorted tickets, fees and tuition. For the year just-ended, the Vicksburg Warren district spending plan totaled $87 million with 52 percent of $76 million in revenue coming from state allocations.

“They began warning us in December that this was possible,” Price said. “It should not have been a shock to anybody but it is still hard to lose money.”

Price also said energy costs will be the biggest financial challenge in the year ahead and that some districts are even looking at going to four-day weeks.

Last year, utilities cost the district around $1.5 million. This year, a 30 percent increase is anticipated, raising the costs by $430,000.

“We knew these times were coming,” Price said, “and we prepared. Over the past four years, we’ve reduced our budget and cut out unnecessary administrative positions, saving us around $1.5 million, and we will use that to help pay for utility increases.”