Poplarville schools face budget cuts

Published 12:45 am Sunday, May 16, 2010

Poplarville school superintendent Carl Merritt, in a statement released on Friday, said the Poplarville school system is facing stiff budget cuts because of a fall-off in expected revenues.
The three school boards that operate school systems in Pearl River Co. are in the midst of putting together next year’s budgets and finalizing contracts with teachers.
The Picayune school board and the Pearl River Co. school system, headquartered at Carriere, are currently wrestling with budgets, too, and possible cuts also, as Gov. Haley Barbour prepares to sign appropriation bills on May 21.
But Merritt is the first to release a statement to the press on what is actually happening.
The Pearl River County school board runs the huge Pearl River Central school system with campuses at Carriere, McNeill and Burgetown communities. Poplarville and Picayune school districts are municipal school systems.
All five members of the PRC board and the superintendent are elected. Poplarville’s school board is appointed and three members of Picayune’s board are appointed by the city council and two members elected from districts outside the city limits.
School boards throughout the state have 10 days to finalize contracts with teachers after Barbour signs the appropriations bills, but most have already finalized things, although they still have to officially adopt their budgets and contracts.
Cuts of some teachers are expected in the PRC system at Carriere, but the school board there has not made any formal announcements to the press and public on projected cuts, although board president Twila Crabtree several weeks ago told the Item that the possibility was, in the first round of budget cuts, that seven teachers might be cut.
At Pearl River Central, too, even the decision to not fill the position of head band director caught board members by surprise and was made an issue recently by band parents who heard the position would remain vacant from information brought home by their students,.
The Çarriere board on Thursday continued wrestling with its budget, giving supt. Dennis E. Penton authority to hire a head band director, but Penton told the board to do so, he would have to cut in other areas under the guidelines set by the board.
He wanted to dip into fund reserves to pay for the band director, but the board would not let him. Merritt in his statement said Poplarville had decided to dip into cash reserves, that’s money set aside for hard times.
Picayune has not announced any cuts in personnel or programs to the press, or whether it is planning any.
Merritt on Friday said that Poplarville was facing budget reductions of $1.2 million, approximately 12 percent.
“This does not include the reduction in state revenues that the school district has had to absorb last year and the current school year,” he said.
In what could be described as a tough, major decision, Merritt said that “other cost saving measures include non-renewing one-third of the teacher assistants.” That will no doubt place tougher work-loads on teachers.
Here is Merritt’s complete statement verbatim:
“The Poplarville school system is facing a significant reduction in Mississippi Adequate Education revenues estimated over $1.2 million (approximately 12 percent ) for the upcoming school year.
“This does not include the reduction in state revenues that the school district has had to absorb last year and the current school year. With this being said, the school district is still committed to providing a quality education to all the children attending our schools.
“Due to the recurring reduction in the Mississippi Adequate Education revenues the school district must implement significant cuts in our expenditure budget of which the majority will be made through attrition (personnel retiring or resigning).
“Other cost saving measures include non-renewing one-third of the teacher assistants. All school budgets and support staff budgets will cut back on expenditures at a minimum of 10 percent for the upcoming school year.
“The remaining deficit will be absorbed through the use of fund balance reserves. Implementing these cost saving measures shall allow the school district to continue operating effectively.
“The Poplarville school district appreciates the community’s support in facing these economic challenges.”
SIGNED: Carl Merritt, superintendent, Poplarville school district.
Merritt in his statement said that the Poplarville school board has dipped into its fund balance reserves to help ride out the funding crisis.
At Pearl River Central Penton has repeatedly asked the PRC school board to be able to dip into its reserve account but so far has not been given permission to do so by the board.

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