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Officials get ready to OK $30M budget

The Brookhaven School District is looking to approve an almost $30 million budget for the 2013-2014 school year Tuesday night.

The biggest change from last year to this year has been an increase in state funding through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which all parties at the district agree is a great thing.

“Retirement costs continue to go up, and this year the state saw the difficulty districts had in covering that,” Lea Barrett, consultant to the interim superintendent, said in explaining the increase.

Interim Superintendent Stephanie Henderson said the extra state funding will help fund the increase in retirement costs but will not completely cover the increases.

Susan Cochran, director of finance for BSD, said she promises the district is being as efficient as possible with the taxpayers’ dollars.

“I treat this budget like I would if it were my household,” she said.

As far as expenditures go, Cochran said little has changed from last year. For the new year, approximately 70 percent of total expenditures will pay for salaries and benefits. On top of this, the district has to factor in the cost of utility bills for the various buildings and school supplies.

Barrett said the $30 million looks like a large number, but the ways it is being spent is very basic. Most money is going toward the teachers, the infrastructure or school supplies.

Over the past three or four years, Barrett said the district has lost about $6 million in funding, and the Mississippi Department of Education has responded to complaints of decreases in funding by recommending increasing local taxes. The district’s Board of Trustees is trying to prevent placing that burden on locals.

“As much as costs keep climbing and state funding is down, the board is committed to not raising local taxes,” Cochran said.

BSD has still not been able to determine how much federal funding the 2013 Federal Sequester will impact. As of Thursday afternoon, the final numbers for federal funding had not been supplied to the school district.

Right now, district officials are basing their budget on getting 85 percent of what they received last year. Cochran said the district has been warned they will probably receive five percent less than last year. Henderson said since they are anticipating even less than that, the district is confident that they will be able to cover all the expenditures necessary for the upcoming year.

The current budget anticipates revenues and expenditures of approximately $29.8 million.

Barrett stressed how much the school district affects the local economy. With 70 percent of the expenditures going directly into the pockets of people in the community, the district helps bring money in.

Barrett said only 30 percent of the school’s total funding comes from local taxes, so 70 percent of the budget is being pumped into the economy from outside of the community.

With the district being the fourth largest employer in the county, it proves to be very influential in the local economy.

Cochran said in addition to the employees, the district likes to use local people on contract work, pumping even more money into the local economy.

“It’s making the community better beyond the education system for the child,” Barrett said.

However, Barrett, Henderson and Cochran said the economic value is just extra. The main goal of the district is still focused on the child.

Barrett said without a successful school district, the community as a whole cannot be successful.