School board holds budget hearing

Published 6:40 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Picayune schools will spend about $34.2 million during the 2008-’09 school year and take in about $33.1 million, business manager Lisa Penton told the school board for the Picayune Municipal Separate School District at its budget hearing last night.

The shortfall will be made up from the district’s fund balance, which she expects to still be at a healthy $2.7 million on June 30, 2009, not counting hurricane funds. With hurricane funds, the fund balance rises to $7.2 million. At the end of the budget hearing, which preceded the board’s meeting, the board voted to reserve $4.2 million of the fund balance for capital projects. The board will hold a workshop in July to discuss and prioritize the capital projects.

According to figures presented to the board by Penton, the state requires that a school district have a fund balance of 5 percent of its income for emergencies, or $1.7 million in the case of Picayune. A fund balance of 8 percent is recommended, or $2.6 million in the case of Picayune.

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The district starts the 2008-’09 school year with a fund balance of $3.3 million without hurricane funds and with $7.7 million with the hurricane funds.

Board members noted that despite being required by the state to advertise a “Notice of Tax Increase” that there really is no tax increase in this year’s budget.

“It’s just one of those things we have to do,” said school board member Harvey Miller.

The board recognized the Picayune Memorial High School varsity cheerleaders for their success at a summer camp after it exited the hearing and started its business meeting. Team co-captain Lindsey Walker read letters to the board from herself and Megan Maximo, who could not be at the meeting, describing the team’s likeness to a family. The letters also asked the school board to allow them to keep their remaining team sponsor. Another of the two team sponsors had resigned, apparently causing the team to fear that it might lose its remaining sponsor. However, Superintendent Dean Shaw andAssistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said Wednesday morning that the remaining sponsor, Kay Smith, had already agreed to coach the team next year.

The board also heard from Tide baseball Coach Cayne Stockstill and Diamond Club President Fred Cruse concerning drainage problems at the school’s baseball field.

Stockstill told the board that the field sometimes is so soggy that the lawnmower used to mow the field cuts tracks into it.

“It’s getting tough out there,” Stockstill said.

Cruse told the board that the Diamond Club is defraying the expenses for Charles Brunetti of Mississippi State University to come in and take a look at the problems with the field and to make some recommendations. Brunetti is takes care of Mississippi State’s field and formerly helped maintain Fenway Park.

Cruse and Stockstill also said local engineer Brooks Wallace has taken a look at the problems with the baseball field.

Miller said that the district “really has paid very little” for the baseball field because of all the volunteer work that went into establishing it. The field also is located on 16th section land, which the district already owned.

Board members asked the two men to talk with Wallace and the expert the Diamond Club is bringing in and to bring a set of recommendations with estimated costs to the board at its noon meeting on Tuesday, June 24.

In other matters, the board:

— Approved personnel matters.

— Approved consent items including donations from the Golf Coast Community Foundation and from the South Side Lower PTO.

— Approved finance matters, including the ad valorem and debt service tax resolutions and to purchase five school buses.

— Approved the payment of $13,585 to Webster Electric for the football field lighting.

— Approved student handbooks for the junior high and elementary schools.

— Approved a grant submission from South Side Elementary School to the Miss. Arts Commission.

— Approved a contract with Pickering Environmental to conduct a mold and asbestos investigation at the Bertie Rouse building.

— Went into executive session on student discipline and personnel matters.

Adjourned until 12 noon Tuesday, June 24.