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Lincoln County School Board to ask for more money — Increase could cause slight ad valorem tax hike

For the first time in several years, the Lincoln County School District will ask supervisors for a 4 percent increase in funding, which could cause a slight hike in ad valorem taxes for residents.

The board is expected to vote to approve the $25 million budget Thursday at 5 p.m.

“We want to provide the best educational opportunity we can for our students,” said Lincoln County School Superintendent Mickey Myers.

Sam Stewart, the district’s financial director, presented the budget to the board at a public hearing June 19, however no one from the public attended to offer input, he said.

“We are asking for a 4-percent increase,” Stewart said. “Whether that will cause a tax increase, I don’t know.”

If approved, the district will request the increase from the county. Supervisors will then set the milage based on the request.

The district is operating with a budget of $26.07 million. Of that, 16.14 percent or $4.2 million is obtained through ad valorem taxes.

For the 2018 fiscal year, which begins July 1, the proposed budget is $24.94 million. Of that, 18.54, or $4.6 million is proposed to be financed through a tax levy, he said.

Ad valorem taxes are paid on homes, automobile tags, business fixtures and equipment and rental property.

Stewart said the increase is needed for several reasons, including additions to personnel, school maintenance and bus purchases. Also if the Mississippi Adequate Education Program doesn’t cut funding this next year, the state’s additional $6,000 it has earmarked for Lincoln County’s four attendance centers won’t be nearly enough to cover the additional 26 students the district had at the end of the year.

The district is adding two nurses and an assistant principal to personnel for the new year. That allows each attendance center to have a full-time nurse, Myers said. They’ve also hired an assistant principal.

“We’re asking for more because we’ve added positions, basically. We’ve added two nurses. We also added an assistant principal at West Lincoln Attendance Center,” Stewart said. “That school has grown a lot. All of our schools have grown a lot. I think it’s a needed position. You’ve got to have an administrator on duty at all times.”

Stewart said the 4-percent increase could bring an additional $350,000 to $400,000 to the district. The additional personnel could account for about half of that.

“That’s $170,000 of it right there,” he said.

He said maintenance on school air conditioning units is also a necessity.

“All of the buildings are about the same age, but AC repairs must be done to keep the units running properly,” he said.

He recommended the school board approve the purchase of two school buses each year.

“If we can buy one or two every year and get rid of the older ones, we should be OK,” Stewart said.

Myers said the board will continue to be frugal with taxpayer money.

“It’s been some time since we asked for the 4-percent increase,” he said.

Based on the 2015-2016 average daily attendance, Lincoln County spent $7,359 per student. It is ranked lowest out of 144 districts.

“We spend less per student than any other district in the state of Mississippi,” Stewart said.

The district has a fund balance of $32.7 million, which took several years to build. However, a lot of the money is in 16th-section oil royalties and can’t be spent.

“You cannot spend that money,” Stewart said. “The only thing you can do with it is take a loan out against it to purchase buildings or such as that for the district. Or buses if you had to. Or earn interest on it.”