Adjustments made to ensure no taxes raised on district’s behalf

Published 10:01 am Friday, September 2, 2016

The Vicksburg Warren School Board has revised its budget in a special called board meeting Friday morning to decrease the amount of money requested in ad valorem taxes from the county.

The district originally asked the Warren County Board of Supervisors for $31.4 million, the exact amount the district received last year, thinking the 53.58 millage rate would not change. However, when county administrator John Smith ran the number to give the district the amount requested, his calculations had the millage increasing 1 mill.

“There are some things they take into consideration that we don’t take into consideration, or I did not have the knowledge we should be taking into consideration,” school district finance director Shaquita Burke said.

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Burke worked with Smith and discovered the numbers were off because of homestead tax exemptions and a buffer built in by the county to account for that loss. When those numbers were taken into consideration it impacted the millage rate.

“Because that reduces our tax base, the county has to absorb that loss. That loss is split between the county and the school district,” Burke said.

To accommodate the tax exemptions, Burke came back to the school board and asked them to adjust the budget to instead request $30.42 million to help insure the millage would not be raised.

“If for some reason your taxes do go up, we’ve done everything in our power to insure it’s not the schools,” school board president Bryan Pratt said.

School board member James Stirgus Jr. was reluctant, but the board voted unanimously to approve the amended resolution and budget.

“It is the supervisors who have to levee taxes, but we want to know when we are submitting a budget request, what our best estimate to the impact to our community is going to be so that we are being good stewards of the money we are trusted with,” Pratt said.

Burke said in the future, she would create the school district’s budget on a timeline that coincides with the board of supervisor’s budget so she can work with hard numbers and there shouldn’t be as much back and forth on predicted numbers.

“If we could get our budget window a little bit tighter and more aligned with them, we would get more accurate numbers,” Pratt said.

Superintendent Chad Shealy commended Burke for her work to align the numbers with the county for the school district.

“Mrs. Burke has done a tremendous job in trying to work it every different way and to be as transparent with you so you can understand the process. In the past I don’t know if we’ve ever had clarity on our numbers like this. Since she’s been here she’s done a fantastic job with that,” Shealy said.