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PRC school board hears budget presentation

The school board for the Pearl River County School District will spend about $30 million during the 2008-’09 school year with an anticipated income of $28 million, according to figures presented to the board by district business administrator Megan St. Clair.

St. Clair said the difference will be made up from the district’s fund balance, but that the district still expects to have a fund balance of $7 million at the end of next year. She thanked the board on the behalf of the administration for its maintenance of a fund balance that would allow the district to meet its obligations even in years such as 2008-’09 when expenses are high and income is down.

Income is down because of a fall off in funds to be received from the state as emergency funding because of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 ends. Superintendent Dennis Penton said later in the meeting that escalating fuel costs are driving every thing the district does. The district will have a tax increase to generate $447,089, or an estimated 3.41 mills this year, but that increase is only returning the district to about the tax rate it had before last year when the district saw a decrease in the number of mills requested due to the emergency funds it was receiving because of Katrina.

The district also hopes to add school attendance/student liaison officers, called parent liason officers, this year to try to boost the district’s average daily attendance.

“We lost a lot of money last year due to absenteeism of students,” Penton said.

Districts receive state funding based on average daily attendance figures.

The district also is adding physical education teachers for the coming year because of new state PE requirements, St. Clair said.

Penton said that another problem faced by the district is that school districts are not getting money for needed capital improvements from the state despite increased enrollment. Increasing enrollment and increasing state requirements means more classrooms and other facilities are needed, he said.

Along those lines, the superintendent said the district is in negotiations to buy the St. Michael’s property. Because of the negotiations, he could not give a cost estimate, but said Tuesday morning that buying the campus would be cheaper than the district having to construct buildings. He said the campus would serve about 100 students and would be used for an alternative school and other special needs.

The board also heard a presentation from Kelly Services Inc. about its substitute teacher service.

Penton said, in introducing Kelly representative Kelly Sower that the district has had difficulty in meeting its needs for substitute teachers and wants the board to consider Kelly to fill that need.

Sower told the board that 11 districts on the Mississippi Gulf Coast use the company to meet their needs for substitute teachers and said his company is proving substitute teachers for districts in 45 states and the United Kingdom. His company has a better than 99 percent “fill rate” for meeting substitute needs and has strict standards for the people it supplies to meet those needs, he said.

In other matters, the board:

— Heard the superintendent’s report, including how district art students had faired in various art shows and that the district plans to allow parents to access a computer web site with individual user names and pass words to keep track of their children’s grades, attendance and homework requirements.

— Approved financial matters.

— Approved personnel matters.

— Approved 16th section matters.

— Approved agreements with the Picayune Municipal Separate School District for behavior modification, alternative school and vocational classes.

— Approved requests for use of the multi-purpose building, gymnasium and other campus areas.

— Went into executive session on several matters.

Adjourned until June 26.