You get what you pay for

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2014

There’s an old expression that says you get what you pay for. In Vicksburg and Warren County we are definitely getting what we pay for in regards to education. It’s all too easy to lament our standings compared to other school districts. We whine and claim that if we had the median income of those other districts then we could have the results they are seeing.

The Vicksburg Warren School District has operated at near the same millage rate for the last 25 years. While that has been fantastic for taxpayers, it has not been good for the future of our community. Property values have risen and that has in effect increased the budget for the district, but that increase has been offset with inflation. The children of our community have lagged behind similar sized communities and districts because of this.

Predictions at the beginning of the school year showed the district running a nearly $7 million deficit, with revenue estimated at about $55 million and expenditures at $62 million. That deficit for the year has been reduced to about $1 million through attrition and other cuts.

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This week the board heard a presentation from Warren Greenlee, an attorney with the Young Law Group in Jackson that specializes in public and bond finance law.

Greenlee noted that a millage increase of 1.34 mills, would raise an additional $1 million yearly for the school district. That increase would wipe out the districts deficit.

The district is currently legally able to increase the rate by 0.34 mills as part of its 2010 General Obligation Bond without requesting a public hearing. Yet, our school board has not done so.

Greenlee said that both Madison and Clinton schools currently levy nearly 70 mills compared to the VWSD’s 47.81 mills.

Both districts are also paying for one-to-one technology initiatives — putting a small laptop computer or tablet in every student’s hands — with tax increases. The one-to-one initiatives aim to lower long-term textbook costs by purchasing them digitally.

Public school districts in Mississippi may request up to 55 mills annually for operating expenses. That limit does not apply to taxes levied for capital improvements, such as building renovations and construction.

The question remains to be asked, why wouldn’t our school board increase that millage rate to 55 mills? Is it more important to get re-elected or to provide the best education we can to the children of our community?

The VWSD is a D-rated district and quite frankly that is what we are paying for.