Picayune school board discusses taxes

Published 1:53 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Because of Monday night’s passage of a tax increase by the City of Picayune, taxes in the Picayune Municipal Separate School District came up for discussion at the Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Board member Tony Smith said he was concerned about expenses within the district because the school board has recently approved expenses that were not originally budgeted, including raises for administrators and additional costs for the district’s central office renovations.

Smith said that as he read the budget, the district is receiving $1 million more in taxes this year than last year and also has voted to dip into the district’s fund balance for an additional $900,000.

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Board member Duane Wheat said that the main reason taxes are going up in the City of Picayune is because of the city’s tax increase and has nothing to do with the school board’s actions.

“Taxes are actually going down in the school district outside of Picayune,” Wheat said.

He said that because a general obligation bond issue passed in the early 1980s has been paid off, taxes within the school district actually are going down about $700,000. Wheat said that the additional $1 million is coming from reappraisal and reassessment within the county as a whole and from new properties now coming onto the tax rolls.

Wheat also pointed out that the district’s campuses are in good shape because of the school board’s actions to continuously add classrooms as needed and to provide adequate upkeep for district buildings.

The Poplarville and Pearl River County school districts currently are proposing bond issues to build new buildings.

Board members acknowledged that Smith was correct about the unbudgeted funds and agreed to schedule a meeting for 12 noon Tuesday, Oct. 4, to prioritize capital projects to reduce unbudgeted spending.

Financial director Lisa Penton said that most of the additional money sought for the district has helped reduce class sizes back to where they were before the state cut education funding a few years ago, has air conditioned seven district buses, has gone to meet increased transportation department fuel costs and for increased utility costs.

In keeping with its concerns about unbudgeted spending, the board tabled a motion to use the old lights from the stadium to light the football team’s practice field. The board asked the administration to determine if there is enough space at a hanger the district uses for storage to store the old lights until the district can determine how to pay for lighting the practice field.

The board also voted to seek a waiver from the state Department of Education for making up the day missed because of Hurricane Gustav. Board chairman Ginny Dodd noted that because of the schedule approved by the school board, the district will meet all time requirements for awarding Carnegie units to high school students even if the waiver is not granted.

The board approved a grant application by Nicholson Elementary to¬† Pratt and Whitney-Rocketdyne for $2,000 for scientific material to be used in the school’s robotics competition.

The board approved an application to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency for expenditures made and damages incurred from Hurricane Gustav. Early estimates are that the school spent or suffered damages of about $200,000.

In other matters, the board:

— Approved an agreement to use the Aquatic Center for the 2008-2009 school year.

— Approved the test security plan.

— Approved the Mississippi Beginning Teacher Support Program.

— Approved personnel matters.

— Approved going into executive session.