Schools to spend less in 2009-10
Published 12:00 am Friday, March 20, 2009
The Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent plans to spend less in the coming year and have fewer employees.
Earlier than usual, school trustees unveiled a proposed budget Thursday. At $78,662,518, it is about $1.7 million less than that for the current year, which ends June 30.
It calls for no change in local property rates, but does anticipate slightly less revenue in that category. The largest decline is in money expected from the state, but that’s a figure subject to change.
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Earlier this year due to state revenue falling short of expectations, Gov. Haley Barbour ordered 5 percent reductions in almost all categories of state spending, including the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The cuts are triggered by statute, but may be offset this year and next year by federal stimulus dollars.
“The governor is required to cut everyone 5 percent before he can cut any other agencies,” said Superintendent James Price. The schools are projected to lose another 5 percent next year, he said. “With the economy the way it is, it seemed prudent to us to budget that in.”
School budgets are normally adopted in late May or early June. When formalized, the district will send a letter to Warren County supervisors informing the county of a dollar amount supervisors are required to raise through property taxation. A rate sufficient to raise the dollar amount is set in September and collections start in October. For 2009-2010, the rate should remain at 46.20 mills, Price told the trustees.
Total projected revenues for the coming year are $74,782,142, down more than $2.6 million from this year’s $77,385,849.
The budget shows the cost of salaries and benefits will be down by more than $1.8 million, but no layoffs are expected, Price said.
“Through attrition we will cut 10 to 12 teaching positions,” he said. “These will be spread out across the 14 schools.” Schools will revamp schedules and combine classes, especially at the secondary level and at the Grove Street Alternative School, to deal with the losses, he said.
The district estimates $65,000 per position for salaries and benefits.
In addition, some non-licensed staff positions such as custodial and food service will be contracted out, eliminating their employee benefit costs, said financial operations director Dale McClung.
As a percentage of the budget, instructional costs will rise slightly, from 53.67 percent to 53.89 percent. Price said the increase is due to pay increases for which employees with more than 25 years of experience are now eligible.
Before the Legislature changed it in 2007, step increases for teachers topped out at 25 years. “We have no choice about that,” he said.
Price also said savings would be realized through energy conservation and postponing wish-list projects such as construction — not personnel or staff.
The district is hoping to receive federal stimulus money but not counting on it until it is actually in hand, Price said. “If we get some stimulus money that will be added back in,” he said.
Besides a share of a $300 million stimulus package that Barbour has pledged to distribute to K-12 schools, Price also expects up to $1.2 million in federal stimulus funds targeted to special education.
“This is money that they felt would flow directly through to the district, because the vehicle is already in place to disseminate it,” he told the trustees. “The problem is, the government has stringent regulations as to how the money can be spent. We must be careful not to obligate the district to years of things we cannot afford.”
The special education funds will be closely monitored by auditors the state department of education will be required to hire. “We are going to move cautiously,” Price said.
He also briefed the board on this week’s intercession activity, saying about 15 percent fewer students attended than in the first two intercession weeks. “We had more math students than ever before,” he said, adding that school officials are glad to have the ability to offer remediation work to students who need it.
The consolidated countywide district was formed in 1987. Enrollment is about 9,000 students.
Contact Pamela Hitchins at firstname.lastname@example.org.