Poplarville school board holds budget public hearing

Published 3:11 pm Friday, June 25, 2010

The Poplarville Special Municipal Separate School District will be operating on about $1.2 million less than it did last year, says school finance director Samantha J. Sandifer.

Sandifer on Wednesday presented an overview of the school board’s new 2010-2011 school budget to residents. The board will adopt it in the next few weeks after tweaking it following the public hearing.

About 15 people, including Supervisor Hudson Holliday, attended the budget hearing, which is required by state law to be held before the school budget is adopted and any increase in taxes is applied.

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School board members are president Todd Nodurft, Violine Jordan, Shirline Magee, Samuel Gentry and Lisa Graves. Carl Merritt is superintendent.

The new budget is expected to generate total expenditures of $21.6 million. The school’s new fiscal year runs from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011.

The new budget will be partially financed through about a $130,000 request to the county that will come from local ad valorem taxes on residents’ personal property and through about $600,000 taken from the school district’s fund balance.

Sandifer told the residents that she believes there would be no increase in county millage rates for the budget, that the county’s increased appraised value probably would generate the extra revenue needed from local taxes.

She said the new budget reflects a loss of about $1.2 million in state funding. School budget cuts from the state have hit all school systems throughout Mississippi.

Most of the local school district’s revenue comes from state, federal and 16th section land sources, but about 30 percent of the budget is generated from local taxes on property applied within the Poplarville  school district.

Sandifer said that school officials dipped into the school’s cash balance by $600,000 to help meet the new budget’s shortfall.

The school budget carries about a $2 million fund balance but some of it is encumbered and cannot be used, said Sandifer.

She said the budget crisis probably resulted in the direct layoff of at least one teacher, but she outlined cuts in 12 teacher aides and said the school bus operation was cut about $100,000.

School officials are planning on rehiring a number of teacher aides that were scheduled to be cut.

The board also cut a Spanish class in the Lower Elementary school, and is merging the alternative school with Pearl River County’s at Burgetown, which is expected to save money.

School boards are required by state law to hold a public hearing on proposed budgets to gather citizen input and announce its intentions in a public notice published in the local newspaper.

The board cannot implement its budget until it does that, said Sandifer.

Sandifer told the residents attending the hearing that if they had any further questions about the budget, they were welcome to contact her at her office.