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Schools consider budget options

Lincoln County Superintendent of Education Terry Brister agreeswith Gov. Haley Barbour that teachers do not need to be cut as thestate gropes with its education funding crisis.

But with the funding levels being considered by the legislature,Brister believes there may be no other option.

“The last thing I would ever want to do is cut personnel,”Brister said.

The Lincoln County School District’s portion of the educationfunding cut would amount to approximately $520,000, according thelegislative budget recommendation. Brister doesn’t want to see thatloss impact teachers who have worked hard to meet higherperformance expectations.

“The teachers have done everything that has been asked of themby the state and federal governments in their performance. We metall their goals,” Brister said. “I’m proud of the teachers. But, wedo not have a lot of overhead like Gov. Barbour is projecting wedo.”

Barbour announced Friday he would not permit school districts tofire or lay off teachers because of budget constraints, although hepreserved a district’s right to fire “for cause.”

According to Brister, that doesn’t leave a school district muchwriggle room. Lincoln County is typical of most districts with75-80 percent of its budget devoted to salaries and benefits, hesaid.

Dr. Sam Bounds, superintendent of the Brookhaven Public SchoolDistrict, was not available for comment. However, he said earlierthat 78 percent of his district’s budget is for teacher salariesand benefits.

Brister said the projected cuts look grim.

“If we don’t have the money to keep those personnel, we have todo what we have to do,” he said. “We’re not spending a whole lotmore than we need to. I just don’t see it (the extra funding).”

Brister remains hopeful that the legislature will come to someform of compromise on the education budget. He said in numerousconferences with local lawmakers that the officials havedemonstrated they were aware of the issues and were doing theirbest to address them.

“I feel like they’re fighting hard for us,” Brister said. “Theyare very supportive of us.”