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School board hears budget ‘worst case’

Members of the Brookhaven School District’s Board of Trusteescould face some tough decisions in the next few months as theyprepare for a possible state funding shortfall.

Superintendent Dr. Sam Bounds briefed the board on the budgetsituation Tuesday during their regular monthly meeting.

As Bounds talked about the worst case scenario, he said thedistrict could be facing a “bleak picture” if legislators do notfully fund Mississippi Adequate Education Fund (MAEP) and also cutteacher benefits.

“When you add the MAEP, teachers and teacher assistants, you’vegot a total of $937,853 down from this year,” he said.

Bounds told board members he saw six possibilities forsolutions:

* A 4 percent tax increase, which would be advertised and thendiscussed at a public hearing. The increase would bringapproximately $370,000 to the district.

* A 7 percent tax increase, which would require the signaturesof 1,500 residents, or 20 percent of the population, for it tobecome a referendum.

* A voter referendum for any tax increase over 7 percent. Areferendum would have to pass by 60 percent plus one vote.

* Increase the tax levy by three mills, which would be $3 forevery $1,000 of assessed property value.

* Reductions in support or service

* Reductions in salary, which would mean cutting 23.4 teachingpositions to offset the shortfall.

“I respect our governor, but when he says you can cut the’fluff,’ and 78 percent of your budget is salaries, there’s not awhole lot of fluff,” said Bounds.

Gwendolyn Sartin, who was serving as chairman for her lastmeeting after 15 years of service, said she did not like thatschool districts even had to be placed in situations to make suchdifficult decisions.

“We really should have the monies available,” she said.

After hearing the possibilities, board member Carl Aycock said,”I’m certainly in favor of anything reasonable that can bedone.”

Bounds gave board members some hope when he presented them witha new bill that would make more money available for publiceducation. The bill was announced Tuesday morning by Speaker of theHouse Billy McCoy, said Bounds.

“It’s the best thing we’ve seen,” said Bounds.

He encouraged the board and the public to talk with legislatorsabout funding education.

“I still feel like the backbone of any society is publiceducation, and we need to make sure public education is well takencare of,” he said.

In other matters, the board approved a 25-cent raise in theprice of breakfast and lunch at the schools. Bounds explained thatthe district was at the bottom of the list when compared to otherdistricts’ meal prices.

He also mentioned that production costs had gone up, and therehad been no price increase in about 10 years.

“We have not had any significant increases,” he said.

Also, the board gave permission to advertise for bids on theyellow house behind the Central Office. They hope to have someoneclear the lot completely, and possibly remove another vacant housefrom the area.

“We hope to have both projects completed by the end of May,”Bounds said.

The next board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., March 23, at theCentral Office.