Superintendent: Financial deficit a possibility for Vicksburg Warren School District

Published 5:06 pm Friday, September 1, 2023

The Vicksburg Warren School District is not yet in financial trouble, but Superintendent Dr. Tori Holloway said Thursday the district is at risk of falling into a financial deficit.

During the August meeting of the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees, board member James Stirgus Jr. referenced a story published by The Vicksburg Post detailing concerns Holloway and Director of Financial Operations Kathy Hughes presented to the Warren County Board of Supervisors. Given the financial concerns mentioned by Holloway and Hughes, Stirgus asked Holloway to explain the district’s financial situation in an “elementary” way.

“I was reading in the paper, and it says ‘VWSD leadership aims for financial stability amid challenges.’ Would you, Mr. Superintendent, in a very elementary answer, please tell me… are we in a deficit?” Stirgus said.

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“Not yet,” Holloway said. “We hope not to be, but there’s a possibility we could be.”

A deficit, in its simplest terms, means the school district is at risk of spending more money than it has budgeted. Stirgus then asked Holloway what methods his office is considering to hopefully eliminate a deficit.

“It’s kind of like a tornado that may eventually come, or may go away,” Stirgus said. “What are we doing to overcome our deficit?”

Holloway responded that his office is monitoring all of the district’s programs, has made some budget cuts and instead of rolling over budgets, the district has made cuts in certain areas.

“If we need to, we will supplement (the budgets that have been cut),” he said. “But hopefully, we can monitor those things to the point where we don’t get to that deficit.

“I can’t guarantee we won’t get there, but we are going to monitor it and there’s a possibility we may get to that deficit.”

Stirgus also asked if there is a chance that personnel will be impacted by the district’s efforts to avoid a financial deficit.

Holloway said he preferred to wait and see if the district actually has a deficit and then make adjustments.

“You don’t always spend everything you budget. So it’s better to deal with actuals after it’s done, and you make plans the following year so you don’t fall back into that same deficit,” Holloway said. “We will have more real numbers to work with at that time. So if we need to start cutting positions, then we can do that number one through attrition, and then if we have to start ripping some personnel positions, then we can rip those. And we have a reduction in force policy that we use.”

The situation right now, he added, is dealing in hypotheticals.

“In my time dealing with school budgets, typically you don’t spend everything that you budget,” he said. I want to wait until we have actuals and then when we have to make cuts, we’ll start making cuts.”

That being said, board member Bryan Pratt asked if Holloway had identified positions that might need to be removed or moved around. Holloway responded that some ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) positions are being moved around and other instructional positions have gone unfilled.

“Our principals have adjusted and some of the ESSER positions are going away and we’ve already notified those folks that we will be unable to bring them on,” Holloway said. “Again, it’s better to watch the budget and see what your expenditures are versus revenues, and then for the FY 24-25 budget, we can go in and cut positions through attritions, rip positions and budget through that money.”

Holloway added that he looks at VWSD’s budget numbers “every day.”

Stirgus concluded his line of questioning by expressing a vote of confidence in the superintendent.

“Mr. Superintendent, I’m going to leave it to you because you are the superintendent and you’ve been in the school business far longer than I have,” Stirgus said. “And I can only think dollars and cents. I just hope we don’t have to do some things that we’ll come back and look at real strange.”