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School district’s spending may exceed income

Picayune schools will take in approximately $37 million in the coming school year and spend $38 million, if Gov. Haley Barbour prevails with the figures in his version of the state budget, Lisa Penton business manager for the Picayune Separate Municipal School District, told the school board at its Tuesday noon meeting.

The board, despite being faced with the third year in a row where it may spend more than it takes in, approved the district’s combined and combining budgets. Penton said the figures she gave the board represented the bleakest of three versions of the state’s budget for the 2009-1010 fiscal year.

She was not happy with the figures she gave the board, but said she had no choice.

“I’m trying to meet all the legal requirements without violating state statutes,” Penton said. She told the board that the House of Representative’s education figures were higher than the governor’s and the Senate’s were still higher, but she used the governor’s figures so board members would know what could happen.

“Until we get a state budget, I don’t know what else to do,” she said. The district will make up for any final shortfall by dipping into its fund balance of about $5.9 million.

The Mississippi Legislature adjourned this year without passing a budget because members wanted to see what the federal government would do to combat the bleak economy and then couldn’t agree on a budget after going back to Capitol for a recess session before adjourning from its regular session. Gov. Barbour said Tuesday he is not ready to call the Legislature back for a special budget session because he is unhappy that the members did not accept his recommendations on Medicaid in reaching a compromise on the budget late Monday.

In other fiscal action, the school board approved resolutions to issue two limited tax notes under the 3 mill authority. One, an interest free note, would raise $3 million through a Qualified School Construction Bond under the federal economic recovery legislation and the other, an interest-bearing note, would raise $1 million. The money would be used to build a “cafetorium” to serve both South Side Elementary schools. Any left over money is likely to be used for electrical upgrades or for a multi-purpose building at Nicholson Elementary.

The board also voted to provide up to $44,000 to the district’s athletic fund since the district’s football team again will have fewer than normal money-making home football games with nearby schools, a situation that drew angry comments from board member Harvey Miller.

“(Representatives) of the MHSAA (Mississippi High School Athletic Assoc.) sat right here and told us that we wouldn’t be sent all over the state this year. The district would be on the 49 corridor,” Miller said. Instead, the Maroon Tide are having to travel to Wayne County, Brookhaven, McComb and Jim Hill in Jackson, Miller said. “I’m very disappointed,” he said.

Only about 40 fans accompanied Jim Hill the last time it played in Picayune, he and Superintendent Dean Shaw noted.

The board voted to transfer enough money to a Challenge 21 Grant to cover a shortfall due to funds not being received from the fiscal manager for the grant, the Poplarville Special Municipal Separate School District because of a dispute with the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation.

In other business, the board:

— Approved personnel matters, consent items and student release and acceptance requests.

— Approved 16th section matters.

— Approved quotes for property, liability, crime and errors and omissions insurance policies from Thigpen Insurance Agency. The price for the property insurance climbed about $15,000 to $103,834 and the deductible increased for damages caused by a named storm from 2 percent to 5 percent. The district’s appraised valuation also climbed about $20 million to more than $60 million.

— Accepted the policyholder’s release from AXIS Surplus Insurance Co. for settlement of Hurricane Katrina claims.

— Approved use of the Picayune Memorial High School and Picayune Junior High gymnasiums by Don Griffith, director of YBOA, for a tournament fund raiser for Pleasant Valley Baptist Church Youth Department.

— Approved the alternative education student handbook, application and statement of assurances for a Homeless and Youth Recovery Act Grant and professional development for the 2009-2010 school year.

— Accepted a Teach Up! Technology Enhancement Program for Local Schools.

— Approved the 1st reading of a series of board policies and revisions to a series of other policies.

Went into executive session on a personnel matter.