VWSD unveils $84M balanced budget

Published 12:29 am Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Vicksburg-Warren School District’s School Board was presented Thursday with an outline of the proposed $84.125 million budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

In it, the administration proposes a balanced budget that meets the instructional and operational needs of the system and outlines some upgrades to facilities and additions to personnel.

The budget, however, cannot be finalized until school officials learn of the funding amounts provided by the county, which is expected sometime in July. The funding amounts are determined by the county’s property assessments.

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“It’s truly whether or not the county assessment values stays the same. If it does, we are good,” board president Bryan Pratt said. “But, if we need to re-evaluate for some reason that it doesn’t come back, our goal is not to raise taxes.

“If the assessment comes back in line with what they have told us, then we should be fine.”

In all, the budget forecasts revenues totaling $84.135 million, with expenses outlined for the same amount, leaving the system with a balanced budget and an expected $22.293 million in the system’s operating fund.

As for the amount expected from the local source, or the county, the budget expects $29.262 million, with an additional $36.432 million from the state. Federal sources are expected to bring in $13.710 million, with the remaining revenue coming in from other sources.

As for the expenses, 54 percent — or $45.3 million — of the budget will be spent on instruction programs. An additional $27.7 million is planned to be spent on support services, with just 4 percent being spent on non-instructional services.

Also, Superintendent of Education Chad Shealy said the system is spending just 2.6 percent on administration costs, more than half of what is spent on average throughout the state.

During the presentation, led by Shaquita W. Burke, the system’s director of business and financial services, a number of budget highlights were shared, including a number of new teaching positions and facility upgrades.

The budget calls for eight new positions; one new pre-K teacher, one new first-grade teacher, one chemistry classroom staff, two academy coaches, two E2E Grant coordinators and a secretary for River City Early College.

It also calls for a bathroom upgrade at Vicksburg High School, some new classroom and office setups and parking lot repaving projects at the central office, Academy of Innovation and Bovina Elementary School.

The budget also lays out expanding the robotics program at River City Early College, academic academy program expansions at Vicksburg High, Warren Central High and River City Early College, as well as the purchase of four vehicles for the driver’s education program.

Pratt said capital investment projects are important for the district, but it all depends on the assessment.

“We are still able to do some of those. What will also happen, from my understanding, if that assessment is lower, some of those special projects might have to be reconsidered,” Pratt said. “But, primarily putting teachers in classrooms in front of children, keeping those teacher-to-student ratios, providing those essential programs. Those are not things I am looking to cut.”

As for special projects involving the system’s athletic departments, the budget provides for the implementation of dance and bowling programs at both junior high schools, locker room upgrades for both junior high and high schools, bleacher projects at Vicksburg and Warren Central, a softball field house at Vicksburg High School, draining updates at Warren Central’s baseball field and more.

It also calls for the purchase of two multi-passenger vehicles for the district and adding two air-conditioned buses to the system’s fleet.

“We would have to re-evaluate those special projects,” Pratt said if the assessment comes in lower than expected. “There are some of those special projects that are pretty essential, but we would have to look at them again.”

The system’s new fiscal year began Saturday, but the new budget does not have to be approved by district leaders until Aug. 15.

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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