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Lawmaker: MSA funding appears safe

The Mississippi School of the Arts appears to have dodged thebudget axe this session and is in line to receive the necessaryfunding to keep the school open for another year under an educationbill now in conference committee, an area lawmaker said today.

However, a threatened veto over a cigarette tax hike couldunravel the entire education funding bill.

“I should know more later today on the (school’s) fundinglevel,” District 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett said this morning as hearrived at the Capitol.

The Brookhaven legislator said he could not discuss the amountof funding but said the school is included in the conference bill.He said he felt the levels now being discussed would ensure theschool would remain open another year.

Recommendations by the Legislative Budget Committee hadpreviously placed funding at $800,000 for next year, a $1 milliondollar decrease from last year’s budget. State Superintendent ofEducation Dr. Henry Johnson has said the school would close if theLBC recommendations were adopted.

“It will now be vital that we immediately begin fund-raisingefforts on the local level and make the necessary contacts withfoundations and philanthropist organizations to raise futurefunding.” Barnett said.

Looming over the Legislature is a pledge, renewed yesterday, byGov. Haley Barbour to veto any tax increase.

Barnett said the cigarette tax increase was vital to the entirebill. Without it, he said, the necessary education funding wouldnot be available.

A delegation of arts school supporters met with House leadershipmembers and Education Department representatives last week todiscuss school funding.