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School officials pitch $25.5M new year budget

A proposed $25.5 million new year budget restores teachingpositions lost last year while asking no more in residents’property taxes, Brookhaven School District officials saidTuesday.

The spending plan for the new year, which starts July 1,represents a just over $1 million increase over the 2005-06 budgetof $24.5 million, said Carl Aycock, president of the district’sboard of trustees.

However, due to funding increases through the MississippiAdequate Education Program, school officials are not asking formore local funds in the form of property taxes. The 2005-2006projection from property tax sources was $7.8 million and fell to$7.6 million for the 2006-2007 proposed budget.

“Taxes on people’s homes should not show any increase,” saidSuperintendent Lea Barrett, adding the new year funding request isgoing down for the first time in 10 years. “We are pleased.”

Among budget expenditures, personnel costs take up the majorshare. Barrett said 88 percent of budget expenditures go toinstructional costs and support services for districtactivities.

Part of the approximate $1 million budget increase is alsorelated to personnel.

The proposed budget held a $1,029,724 total increase for the2006-2007 school year.

“The increase goes to an additional 11 teacher positions toreplace those cut last year,” Barrett said.

Nine teacher positions were cut in the previous year and the 11new positions will replace those. An additional two were addedbecause of increased enrollment, Barrett said.

“We look forward to getting back to the teacher-student ratiothat Brookhaven is known for,” she said.

School officials are expecting a student increase of 115students for the new school year.

Other causes for the budget increase included soaring fuelprices, higher utility costs, increased property insurance fees,and the rising cost of health insurance for the 457 employees, aswell as monies allocated for the purchase of three new schoolbuses. A 25 percent increase was budgeted for bus fuel alonecompared to last year’s supply figures.

“All of these increases are in line with the goals of theboard,” Barrett said.

The proposed budget was presented during a public hearing lastnight.

School district officials provided copies of the budget for thepublic in attendance and made explanation for the increases anddecreases in the budget numbers. Several members of the publicexpressed their concerns at the meeting, stating that a line itembudget should be made available rather than the categorized budgetthat was presented.

“The purpose of the meeting is to make informed and enlighteneddecisions on the budget. I can’t do that,” said Brookhaven residentJohn Perkins, who asked the hearing be postponed until a line itembudget could be provided.

Aycock said Perkins’ request would be taken underadvisement.

Perkins continued with other questions regarding various aspectsof the budget. School officials said they were following state andother guidelines regarding budget preparation and that spendingplans are in line with goals established by the board oftrustees.

A final version of the 2006-07 school budget is expected to bepresented and approved at the June 20 school board meeting.