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Pearl River County School Board discusses preliminary budget

The Pearl River County School District School Board met Thursday evening to discuss preliminary budget requests for the 2008-2009 school year.

District Business Manager Megan St. Clair presented the board with several areas in which a budget increase may be seen for the upcoming year, including salaries, construction projects, utilities and diesel.

Several new teachers will be needed for the new year, increasing the salary budget by just over a million dollars, St. Clair said.

Board member Margie Creel asked Superintendent Dennis Penton if the school had the classroom space to accommodate the new teachers.

“No, absolutely not,” Penton replied, going on to say that the teachers would have to continue to use portable units as well as continuing to “float” between classrooms, as they have been doing this year.

Another increase will come in the cost of construction projects, which will cost slightly over $1.2 million, almost half of which is continued repair work from Hurricane Katrina, St. Clair said.

“We have over $480,000 of continued repair work to be completed, including repairs to the band hall, which will cost approximately $380,000. We do not currently have portables budgeted right now, because we just bought several this year, as well as receiving others from other districts. We’re hoping we won’t have to buy any next year,” St. Clair said.

One of the largest percentage increases will be an increase in diesel costs for the school, St. Clair said. With rising gas prices, St. Clair is currently estimating an increase of 47 percent over this year’s budget, but said that number may change before the final budget is set in June.

St. Clair said she does not foresee a large increase in utility costs, and is currently only estimating a five percent increase for the new year.

On the revenue side of the budget, St. Clair said the school has received a $583,000 cut in state funding, and also is not expected to receive the total $4.1 million it requested in ad valorem taxes for the year.

“We will probably have a shortfall this year. We had requested $4,112,208 for the year, and right now it’s looking like we won’t get that much,” St. Clair said.

“The tax office is saying we may have a shortfall due to the fact that car tag numbers are down significantly. It does not appear that as many people have bought new cars this year as in previous years,” Penton said.

St. Clair said there are construction funds still tied up in insurance claims that have yet to be reimbursed to the school.

“We have $771,000 of district money tied up in insurance repair. We’ve done a total of $1.7 million in hurricane repairs, but we still have not gotten all of that money back yet,” St. Clair said.

St. Clair said she will give a formal budget presentation to the board on June 2.

In other business, the board went into executive session to discuss legal and business matters.

The next school board meeting will be held May 5 at 6:30 p.m.