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Impact of budget cuts here not yet certain

Brookhaven and Lincoln County school officials are stillcalculating the impact on their school districts of an educationfunding plan approved Sunday by state lawmakers.

“We haven’t run the exact numbers,” Brookhaven School DistrictSuperintendent Dr. Sam Bounds said Monday.

Bounds said his district is in line to receive about $691,000more from the state next year than this year. However, whenfactoring in 8 percent teacher pay raises and insurance premiums tobe covered by the district, he said Brookhaven funding will beabout $250,000 less than in fiscal year 2004.

In the Lincoln County School District, Superintendent TerryBrister said he was unsure how the compromise budget plan, which isabout $46 million below what was needed, would affect hisdistrict.

“We’re going to be short, but we don’t know how much yet,” saidBrister, adding that he expecting to get a funding breakdown fromthe State Department of Education later Monday.

Brister added that schools could work with the funding plan.

“I’m not completely satisfied, but I’m glad we got to a numberwe can work with logically,” Brister said.

Bounds was unable to say if any city school teacher positionswould be lost due to the lowered funding levels. He said districtfinancial officials would be reviewing totals while waiting to seeif Gov. Haley Barbour signs the legislation.

“Then we’ll make the determinations after that,” Boundssaid.

Bounds said about 30 certified and non-certified positions werescheduled to be lost. However, he said only four or five wereteacher positions and others were either phased out or occurred dueto retirements.

Brister also was unsure about his district’s personnelsituation.

“It looks a lot better than it was,” Brister said.

Earlier, about 20 Lincoln County school positions were notexpected to be retained for next year. More than half of those wereteachers, Brister said.

Bounds sounded cautiously optimistic about the upcoming fiscalyear.

“The board and I have tried real hard to be financiallyresponsible,” said Bounds, adding the district could make it onexpected funding. “It’s not going to be easy, but we can.”

Bounds said, though, if funding is reduced next year, thenthings could get tight. He pointed out that $161 million more wasneeded to maintain current year funding levels whereas educationgot $115 million for that purpose.

“You can’t continue to do that as a trend and survive,” Boundssaid.

To fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP),Bounds said $235 million was needed. That represents a $120 milliondifference what districts are to receive and what was needed forMAEP.

“Every district in the state is going to have to reduce spendingor pull from some fund balance they may have,” Bounds said. “InBrookhaven, we’re going to do a combination of both.”

Bounds praised Rep. Randy “Bubba” Pierce, chairman of the HouseEducation Committee, for his efforts on behalf of schools. Bristersaid Lincoln County’s lawmakers, Dist. 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, Dist. 92Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett and Dist. 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, foughthard for education and did all they could.

“I would have liked it be 100 percent (funding), but with thingsthey way they are, I understand,” Brister said.

Bounds said the Legislative Budget Recommendations would have”devastated” some school districts. He said some school districtswould still be in a bind, but the legislation keeps districts closeto current year funding levels.

“It’s a lot better than where we could have been,” Boundssaid.