City schools eye $28.6M budget

Published 6:58 pm Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Brookhaven School District’s budget for the coming fiscalyear is projected to increase by about $1 million, but funding forthe system’s most critical area will still come up short.

While the $28.6 million budget tentatively approved by boardmembers Tuesday contains more fringe funding than last year’s $27.7million allocation, state funding derived from the MississippiAdequate Education Program will fall almost $800,000, saidsuperintendent Lea Barrett.

“And that’s what we use to pay teachers,” she said.

Barrett said MAEP funding for the district will fall from $12.9million to $12.1 million this year, a decrease of $799,125 thattrumps other gains pushing the overall revenue estimate up $1million over last year. Funds increasing the bottom line include a21st Century Community Learning Center grant, a shortfall note fromlast year’s lagging property tax allotments and additional revenuefrom 16th Section lands – all of which are earmarked, she said.

“We got a quarter-million dollars with the (grant) that lets usdo after-school and summer programs. We can’t use it to pay forteachers,” Barrett said. “The 16th Section revenue is earmarked,and we can’t spend it for salaries. The 16th Section principalmoney will increase. You can borrow against it, but you can’t spendit.”

In total, the projected budget will derive $12,993,893 from MAEPand other state sources, a total of 45 percent of the district’srevenue. Property taxes, student activities and other local sourceswill contribute $9,860,273, or 24 percent of the revenue. Federalgrants and programs will account for $4,479,586, or 16 percent ofthe revenue, and other sources will total $1,295,250, about 5percent.

The budget does not call for an increase in property taxcollections.

About $20 million of the budget’s $28,629,001 – roughly 86percent – is designated for instruction and support services,including teachers’ salaries and benefits.

The school board will vote on the proposed budget next Tuesdaynight at its regular monthly meeting.

Barrett said the elimination of seven teaching positions and ahandful of programs earlier this spring was made necessary by thedecrease in MAEP funding. With some retiring teachers not replaced,the district will start the next school year this fall with 29fewer positions, including 14 teaching jobs and 15 non-certifiedpositions like janitors and cafeteria workers.

Reductions in teaching staff must be done early, as state lawsrequires contracts to be issued either by April 15 or 10 days afterthe Legislature makes its yearly appropriations.

The district has absorbed around $1.2 million in cuts over thelast two fiscal years as statewide tax collections have fallenbehind during he recession, Barrett said. She said the cuts haveeaten into the district’s fund balance, and further cuts by thestate will necessitate further cuts on the district level.

“If there’s an additional cut, that’s when the district wouldhave to look at furlough days and possibly some more positions,”Barrett said.

Barrett said teachers’ workdays have been scheduled at the endof the school year to give the board time to make a decision onfurloughs, which would not interrupt instructional time.