Officials confident of school funding

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 18, 2001

While state leaders deal with a tight budget picture, arealawmakers and Mississippi School of the Arts officials remainconfident that operating funds will be available to allow theschool to open in 2003 as scheduled.

“I feel like we’re going to be OK,” said Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. JimBarnett.

During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing earlier thisweek, there was talk that $1.5 million for MSA operation could becut as lawmakers struggle with revenue and spending plans forfiscal year 2003. No final decisions have been made and a budgetwill not be adopted until the spring during the 2002 legislativesession.

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Barnett, a member of the House Appropriations Committee,indicated his chamber will handle budget issues in its usualmanner.

“We’ll take up every department as we do every year the firstweek in January,” Barnett said.

In education related spending, Barnett said he had some concernsabout the Institutions of Higher Learning, but not lower educationlevels.

“I think K-12 will be fine,” including the arts school, Barnettsaid.

Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer, MSA executive director, has been incontact with lawmakers about school plans. She said arts schoolofficials will be attending education related meetings to get afull picture of the funding situation.

“We are not a target, I believe,” Bodenhamer said. “Everythingin the state budget is a target because of the need to reducespending.”

Barnett said he would be happy for the arts school to receivethe $1.5 million requested.

“There may be some more in private funds, but that’s not cast instone,” Barnett said.

Barnett is keeping abreast of fund-raising efforts by theMississippi School of the Arts Foundation. He indicated there aresome promising leads in that regard.

Bodenhamer was cautiously optimistic, although the economy ishaving an effect on fund-raising efforts.

“We’ve got lots of promises and lots of interested people,” shesaid. “The situation with the stock market has impactedindividuals, companies and foundations across the country.”

Bodenhamer said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have alsoinfluenced where people are donating money. She said anyoneinterested in donating to the foundation may contact theschool.

Currently, school officials are seeking money to providematching funds for a grant to fully restore the Elizabeth Cottage.Bodenhamer said the cottage’s ceiling is in danger of collapse.

“That’s a part of campus history, so we’ve got to save it,”Bodenhamer said.