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City schools eye $27.4M budget for new year

The Brookhaven School District introduced an operating budgetfor the 2008-09 school year Tuesday afternoon that isproportionately similar to the budget of its counterpart system inLincoln County, and similar to the budgets of what one would findin most school district across the state, said Superintendent LeaBarrett.

“All the districts are in the same situation – there’s a strongparallel of where the money has to be spent,” she said. “What we dois so mandated, there’s not a lot of discretionary control.”

The Brookhaven district – like many others – has pumped more moneyinto its fuel budget for the upcoming school year and plans tooperate with a much smaller gap between revenues and expenditures.The budget is balanced and satisfies all of the district’srequirements, Barrett said, and was accomplished through a seriesof small allocation adjustments – less money went intonon-instructional services – and the much-needed, full funding ofthe Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

The increase was accomplished without a request to raise theproperty tax millage rate, which stands at 48.46 mills. Plans callfor a budget of $27.48 million for the new school year.

Barrett said the budget for the upcoming school year is $775,000more than that of last year, with $573,356 of that total comingfrom MAEP. The majority of the MAEP allocation – $388,000 – is froman increase in the student population.

“We were lucky this year – some districts lost money,” Barrettsaid. “Our increase in average daily attendance accounted for alarge part of our MAEP increase.”

Part of the district’s budget increase went into the fuel fund. TheBrookhaven district upped its fuel budget by 30 percent – or$57,000 – for a total of $235,000 to run the bus fleet.

District Finance Director Susan Quinn said fuel costs have madethis year’s budget one of the tightest in recent history, withthose costs dominating not only the fuel budget, but manyassociated factors.

“Predominantly, the impact is in fuel, but supplies, food andelectricity are all tied in,” she said. “It’s a very tight budget.We’ll really have to monitor our expenditures.”

Quinn did say, however, that the current fuel budget would beadequate to get the district through the upcoming school year. Ifless fuel is consumed, she said, money could be transferred fromthe fuel fund and if more is needed, funds could be transferred infrom the district’s “strong” fund balance.

“We will look at our expenditures. By mid-year, we’ll have a goodfeel for what the rest of the year is going to require,” Quinnsaid. “We will make adjustments as necessary.”

Additional increased funds in Brookhaven’s budget were distributedto the district’s instructional fund. Barrett pointed out thatabout 90 percent of the total budget is destined for instructionaland support services and 74 percent for salaries and benefits forthe district’s 470 employees. The district will pay out $24.6million in instructional and support services.

The money will be used to fund step increases in pay for teachersand an increased minimum wage for classified – non-instructional -workers. With the minimum wage now at $6.55 per hour and jumping to$7.25 next year, the district has increased its minimum wage to $7per hour to split the difference, Barrett said.

“We’re most happy, during these tough economic times, that we arespending a larger percent of our total budget on instructionalservices,” she said.