School plan sees fewer employees, more spending|No layoffs required, but 40 spots empty

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 26, 2010

No teacher or staff layoffs will be required by a school spending plan presented Thursday that shows both more spending and fewer employees.

Built into the proposed $80 million Vicksburg Warren School District budget is a salary and benefits allocation based on an estimated 40 positions cut by attrition. Superintendent Dr. James Price said about 23 certified positions and 17 non-instructional staff are expected to retire or voluntary sever their employment and won’t be replaced.

Click here for budget numbers

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The budget was explained at a public hearing. It continues for a third year a choice by trustees not to cause an increase in local property taxes.

In employment numbers, the budget provides for 673 licensed employees and 601 non-licensed, for a total of 1,274. This compares with 696 licensed and 618 non-licensed, 1,314 total, in fiscal 2010, and 694 licensed, 668 non-licensed, 1,362 total in fiscal 2009 — a decrease of 88 positions over two years.

With enrollments expected to hold steady at about 9,000, Price said the district will aim for maximum efficiency in class scheduling, which has already begun for next year for secondary students.

On paper the budget reflects about $1.4 million more in spending, from $78.6 million this year to $80 million for the budget year starting July 1, but much of that is due to dedicated projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 or specific grants that are not part of regular spending, Price said.

Total anticipated revenues are lower by about $350,000, but again reflect ARRA funds as well as grants, that pad revenues by more than $5 million and distort an anticipated loss of $5.5 million in state aid.

Trustees stopped short of setting a date to adopt the budget after Zelmarine Murphy, newly elected board president, requested a work session to further study it, line by line.

“I see my name there on the last page,” Murphy said in reference to the budget package. “If I have to be a part of this I want to be knowledgeable about what’s in it. We are accountable to the citizens of this community for the finances and the education of our children.”

The work session was targeted for mid-April.

Price said estimating revenues — local as well as state and federal — has meant aiming at a constantly moving target.

Disregarding ARRA revenues and spending, about $6 million was cut from the district’s operating expenses next year, mostly due to the projected 15 percent cut in the expected state contribution, Price told the board.

“We try to get as accurate a number as possible so we can build a budget,” he said. “There’s just no such thing anymore as having a definitive budget, though, because it changes every day,” he said, referring to state aid. “If the cuts do not occur, we can build things back in.”

Since this fiscal year began last July 1 Gov. Haley Barbour has cut MAEP funds to school districts three times, once last week after the Legislature had voted to restore a portion of the previous cuts.

Legislators are working toward setting the state budget for 2010-2011, meaning Price and Dale McClung, district finance director, must operate largely on guesswork in deciding on next years’ plan because again this year the Legislature will still be in session while schools are making hiring and other decisions.

Price said some school districts will wait until final pledges are made by the state, which provides most of the district’s money. He said he prefers getting the budget ready early so teacher and other contracts can be settled and the district can move into testing and other end-of-school-year matters and activities with the budget behind them.  “The teachers and the public need to know,” he said.

In addition to predicting state cuts, Price said he and McClung aimed at shaving about 5 percent of local contributions, which come from the schools’ share of real estate and personal property taxes and casino revenues.

McClung said because of increases in assessed valuations, his built-in cuts result in a relatively flat projection of local aid from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2011.

The difference of $5.6 million between anticipated revenues and budgeted expenses is reflected in beginning balances in various accounts, including ARRA monies, and does not indicate deficit spending, McClung told the board.

Some of these are for funds that have been set aside for certain expenses, such as $2 million — part of that beginning balance — in bond funds that will pay for already-approved construction at Vicksburg Junior High and Warrenton Elementary schools. That total is also reflected in the apparent large increase in the equipment/renovations category.

Besides employee positions lost through attrition, some current employees will not have their contracts renewed, Price said. “That’s a performance issue,” Price said, declining to make a guess as to how many may not be brought back but adding that most or all of those employees will be replaced.

Other expenses being cut include about $1 million in support services, which includes building maintenance, and about $440,000 in transportation.

Besides the VJHS and Warrenton projects, “We won’t be doing any kind of new construction at all,” he said. “And we won’t be buying any new buses. That’s another big-ticket item that we will delay.”

He said “dozens and dozens” of other budget line items have been trimmed.

“We laboriously went through it, line item by line item,” Price said. “That got us an additional $1 million.”

Contact Pamela Hitchins at