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Schools OK budget with tax increase

Brookhaven School District officials approved a $24.49 millionbudget Tuesday despite objections from local citizens about the taxincrease it will bring in the upcoming year.

A number of Brookhaven residents were present during the board’smonthly meeting but due to board policy were not allowed to addressthe board.

Johnny Perkins, representing the group, asked for a chance totalk with the board about objections to a tax increase.

“If you are not on the agenda, we do not give you permission toparticipate,” explained board president Dan Brown Jr.

As with many other boards in the area, policy states that guestsmay have an audience with the board by requesting permission priorto the meeting.

When Perkins persisted, Brown apologized and told him the boardmust be consistent in its ruling. He pointed out that many othertimes people have failed to be placed on the agenda and were notallowed to speak either.

Brown did, however, allow Superintendent Lea Barrett to explainwhy the district decided it must receive more revenue from taxes tooperate the district as desired.

“This year we cannot survive without that tax increase,” shesaid.

Although the district received more state funding for the2005-06 school year over last year, Barrett explained that themoney will just help cover the cost of a state-mandated 8 percentteacher pay raise and employee benefits.

Barrett cited other major expenses, such as a new roof andwindows at Brookhaven Elementary School for about $300,000, asreasons for the tax hike.

“Also, as many of you know, fuel costs went through the roofthis year,” she said. “We had to pinch a lot of corners to coverfor that $42,000 more in fuel costs.”

She stated that continuing to provide a quality education wasvital to the community, giving accolades to the successful programsand students in the district.

Board member Carl Aycock told the concerned citizens group thathe had talked with Barrett as a citizen and taxpayer about thepossibility of decreasing the budget.

“I asked Mrs. Barrett to get a fine-tooth comb and go throughany expenses we could cut,” said Aycock. “She got back with me andshe felt like she could not cut any areas.”

The only way to not have a tax increase, he said, would be tolose teachers or programs, a move the board doesn’t want tomake.

Board member Carl Holloway Jr. said he had also went to Barrettabout making some spending cuts, but did not see any areas thatcould be changed.

“I’m going to fund the budget as it is tonight, but next yearI’m looking for this not to happen,” he said.

The vote to accept the district’s budget was unanimous.