School of arts gets funds, but feels budget ax, too

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, April 2, 2002

State lawmakers’ search for money will yield some for theMississippi School of the Arts, but the funds will be somewhat lessthan the amount requested, Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett saidSunday.

Arts school officials have requested $1.5 million for statefiscal year 2003, which begins July 1, and will take the school upto a few months before its scheduled opening. However, Barnettindicated appropriated amount will be around two-third of the totalsought.

“We’re going to be short of what we requested, but we’re goingto be able to open it,” Barnett said, mentioning a funding total ofclose to $1 million.

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Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer, MSA executive director, said the reducedfunding level will mean delaying or cutting back on personnel planswherever possible. She said a number of employees were scheduled tobe phased in at various points in the school developmentprocess.

“It means some won’t be hired at all this fiscal year, mostlysupport personnel,” Bodenhamer said.

Also, travel will be a “major question mark,” Bodenhamer said,and equipment purchases will have to be delayed.

“It just means radically cutting anything we possibly can whilestill looking for resources,” Bodenhamer said.

The director was understanding of the lawmakers’ situation asthey try to find money to piece together a budget for nextyear.

“The whole state is in a bad situation, and they’re doing theirbest not to impact education,” Bodenhamer said.

Barnett was confident that lawmakers will continue theircommitment to the school next year. However, like his colleagues,he stressed the importance of raising private funds to assist theschool.

“We’ve put all of this into it. We’re not going to let it gounder,” said Barnett, adding that he is planning to participate insome upcoming trips to solicit funds from potential donors.

Barnett complimented Rep. Charlie Capps, House AppropriationsCommittee chairman, and state Superintendent of Education Dr.Richard Thompson. He said both had been “very good” to LincolnCounty as the arts school project has moved forward.

State lawmakers were working over the weekend to finalize a newstate budget and approve spending measures before a Monday nightdeadline.

Prior to a Sunday afternoon session, Barnett said a number ofissues, such as Medicaid and community colleges, remainedunresolved as lawmakers tried to appropriate funding to over 100state agencies. Among his 11 years in the House, the lawmaker couldnot recall a more difficult year.

“It’s definitely the hardest,” Barnett said. “It’s a sadsituation, but we got ourselves into it.”

In previous years, Barnett said lawmaker spent money “like itwas going out of style.”

“We’re paying for it now,” Barnett said.