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Schools keep wary eye on state budget

School districts may be forced to delay construction projects orcut down on non-contracted employees if the legislature is unableto make up a $29.4 million shortfall in the current budget forMississippi public schools.

School districts may be forced to delay construction projects orcut down on non-contracted employees if the legislature is unableto make up a $29.4 million shortfall in the current budget forMississippi public schools.

“It’s got every district in the state extremely concerned,” saidBrookhaven Superintendent Dr. Sam Bounds about the possibility ofmid-year cuts.

The shortfall came after legislators promised funds for theupcoming year and school districts approved their budgets.

“They told the state department of education how much moneywould be allocated, and the state department then let the schooldistricts know how much they would be receiving,” explainedBounds.

After committing to the school districts, legislators did notfund the money they promised for the Minimum Foundation Program,which pays for teachers, transportation costs, health insurance andother school needs, he added.

Educators across the state are now faced with the question ofwhat to cut if legislators do not come through with a deficitappropriation to make up the funds.

“We’re just hoping that they’ll come back and fund it,” saidJanet Smith, business manager for the Lincoln County SchoolDistrict.

The Lincoln County school District is facing a $163,731 loss,while the Brookhaven School District stands to lose $188,705 forthe 2000-2001 fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30.

Educators are beginning to develop plans now just in case thelegislature does not fund the shortfall in January.

“We are looking at making some cuts in our expenses,” saidSmith. “We may have to put some construction projects off for ayear, but we’re not going to be cutting any personnel.”

Smith also mentioned the possibility of delaying bus purchasesplanned for the 2000-2001 fiscal year.

The Brookhaven School District, which is in the middle ofseveral construction projects at the high school, may also have toslow construction progress when the time comes.

“The only thing we can do is delay already promised maintenanceand construction projects or eliminate non-contracted positions,”said Bounds. “It’s a tough choice, and I hope it’s not one I haveto face.”

The shortfall has created a big strain in school districtsbecause of the short amount of time they have to prepare for thepossible cutbacks.

Educators are hoping they don’t have to take any drasticmeasures, such as cutting positions or delaying schoolconstruction, in January.

“We encourage everyone to talk to their legislators and ask themto fund the Minimum Foundation because we need it,” saidBounds.