Picayune school board expecting cuts in state funding

Published 3:22 pm Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Picayune’s Separate Municipal School District is bracing for possible cuts in state funding but keeping a hopeful outlook on the possibility of stimulus money.

Master teachers in the district are supplemented an additional $6,000 which is usually funded by the state, but those funds appear to be dwindling. A presentation shown to the school board members reflects that last year the district had to absorb about 8 percent of that supplement because it was not reimbursed by the state.

Next school year the district might have to absorb as much as 20 percent of that supplement, which is estimated to cost the district about $28,704.

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Total predicted expenditures for the next school year are expected to be about $32.9 million. Five new school buses are budgeted into that expense. If the funding from the state does not come in as expected that number of buses may have to be decreased.

For the past several years the district has kept about 8 percent of their funds in reserve, even though the state mandate is 5 percent. Projections of that reserve are low for the next school year, below the 5 percent mark, but the district is not including any stimulus money that may be coming their way.

Part of that stimulus money may also help purchase more than the five budgeted school buses. School board member Harvey Miller said if the district gets $1 million in stimulus money they might be able to purchase about 12 additional school buses. Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said it all depends on how the state takes the application from the school district. There is no guarantee that the district will be approved for the money.

The district is also applying for a USDA grant to purchase cafeteria equipment for the three schools with the most students who qualify for free and reduced lunches. Those schools are South Side Upper and Lower and Nicholson Elementary. The board later approved applying for those funds.

Stadium lighting installed at the high school football stadium might be reimbursed for the most part by the Federal Emergency Management Agency funds. FEMA is expected to reimburse the district 75 percent of the expense until the district settles with their insurance company. That could mean $467,000 of the $490,000 spent to install the lights will be reimbursed by FEMA.

Harrell informed the board that most of the figures presented to them were projections that are based on limited information from the state. When the state provides them with more information then it will be presented to the board at that time. The board has until Aug. 15 to amend the budget.

During the regular session of the board meeting a concerned father addressed the board about some disciplinary action taken against his daughter by the district. That disciplinary action has made her unable to participate in the cheer and dance teams for the coming school year. Before the father could enter into details board attorney Gerald Patch advised the girl’s father that he would be better served by the board to discuss the matter in executive session, since it concerned student disciplinary action. Typically student discipline matters are not public. The father and the board agreed to discuss the matter further in executive session.

The board also went into executive session to discuss other student and personnel matters, neither of which are public record.

In other business the board;

— Added a student to the list of special education students.

— Approved the student handbooks for the 2009-2010 school year.

— Approved purchase of the Jr. Pride of the Tide uniforms.

— Approved requests by Mississippi Department of Transportation and George Washington Carver Reunion to use the South Side Lower facilities. MDOT will hold a public hearing concerning improvements to State Route 607 at the school on June 15, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. More information about the reunion was not available at press time.

— Approved the transportation handbook, with changes.