Schools deal with budget cuts

Published 6:38 pm Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Brookhaven School District Superintendent Lea Barrett updatedschool board officials on budget issues facing the school districtat Tuesday night’s meeting.

Barrett said to date, based on information from the MississippiDepartment of Education, the school system has taken funding cutsthat have brought totals down $943,374 from the original $12.9million that would have come from the state.

There are two House bills that would affect public education for2011, Barrett said.

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House Bill 1622 could give Brookhaven $12,111,380 for the comingschool year, which is still almost $800,000 less than what thedistrict is used to operating on. House Bill 1059 could add alittle money back in if Congress passes the extension of Medicaidmatching funds, Barrett said.

Meanwhile, school district officials all over the state areoperating on conservative estimates, she said. State educationleaders told school districts to bank on a 15 percent reduction instate funding, which for Brookhaven would be around $1.9million.

The district is working with about a 7-8 percent cut now, Barrettsaid, and if tax collections don’t improve over the next year, Gov.Haley Barbour could once again cut funding to state agencies.

“If they do that again, that will be another 5 percent cut,” shesaid.

But further expenditures are shrinking the school district’spocketbooks as well, she said.

“The employer has to pay more money into retirement, which isanother 1.56 percent,” she said, adding that the increase equals anadditional $152,000.

Meanwhile, the school district is also required by the state toraise individual teacher pay based on the step increase system.That is another $125,000, Barrett said.

“That’s not negotiable,” Barrett said.

Further decreases in federal funding will suck another $153,569 outof the budget. Barrett said the combined increases in spending andprojected loss of revenue for next year could add up to $1.19million.

All the shifting in the budget is causing school officials to haveto take a realistic look at an option offered in House Bill 1170that would allow the district to furlough teachers on up to threenon-classroom days during the year. Barrett said shifts have beenmade in the school calendar to accommodate the board’s need not tomake a hasty decision on furloughs.

” The school district has option if there’s a financial need tofurlough everyone on staff for three days, but not an instructionalday,” she said. “However, teachers have to work 187 days; kids onlycome to school 180.”

As such, Barrett said, two of those professional days have beenmoved to the second semester in the school calendar so that theboard is able to make a more informed decision when and if the timecomes to issue furloughs.

“If those cuts don’t come, they don’t have to make that decision,”she said. “We decided to move enough of those work days into thesecond semester to give the board that as an option.”

Meanwhile, employees are given back another half day of personaltime for each day they are furloughed, Barrett said. She said thedistrict is allowed to determine what days that personal time canbe taken so as to not incur the cost of substitutes in theclassrooms.

“We’ve put one work day in February, one in April and one in May,so there’s a lot of time to think about that,” Barrett said.