Tax collections down, says finance director; new band director named

Published 2:20 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lisa Penton, Picayune school district finance director, told the school board Tuesday evening that ad valorem tax collections are running behind by over $1 million and that “is significant for our district.”

In addition, the board named a new high school band director during a one-hour session.

Penton made the remarks after board member Ray Scott asked her how collections were going. Ad valorem taxes are a main source of revenue for the school system, applied with a millage rate inside the school district. It is taxes mostly generated on homes and automobiles.

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“Do you feel like we are running close on expected revenues versus expected expenses?” asked Scott.

“On ad valorem taxes, no,” replied Penton.

“We are low?” asked Wells.

“Yes,” replied Penton.

She said city officials had projected that the school system would run $1.5 million short, “and we are currently $1.6 million short.”

She said there are two more months left, and estimated that “if collections come in as last year, we are going to run $1.1 million to $1.2 million short, and that is significant for our district.”

She suggested that the board attorney check on where the district might borrow some money. “The assessed value of the school district has decreased. That has never happened before,” she said.

She said the board attorney could check with the Attorney General’s office to see if the school system could “short-fall borrow.” However, the board said nothing about the possibility of having to borrow money. State law allows school boards to borrow money if they run short on tax collections.

She told the board, “We will need to address a short-fall for sure.”

Ad valorem taxes are applied to homes and automobiles, real property, personal property in businesses and mobile homes. Penton said revenue from automobiles has fallen drastically as residents have cut back on major purchases.

On another matter, the board hired a new band director, John Cockrell, who is from a North Mississippi school system. The board had no bio on him to hand out, and approved it under the certified personnel item on the agenda, at first, without mentioning his name.

However, Wells asked school officials how many prospective candidates for the position was interviewed besides Cockrell, and the board was told four, besides Cockrell, and the committee that conducted the interviews felt Cockrell was the most qualified.

He will replace James Sills, who resigned and whose tenure ends in May. Cockrell is expected to be on board this summer.

After the school board open meeting ended, Pat Smith, assistant high school principal, told the Item Cockrell was “real excited to get the position and is looking forward to moving his family to Picayune.”

In other business, the board:

— Honored the district Parent of the Year, Janice Bates.

— Honored the district reading fair winners.

— Heard a report from Kristy Warden about the effectiveness of the junior high’s Title I program.

— On motion by board member Jimmie Hancock, the board moved the topics of 2011-2012 supplements and pay scales to the executive session. Hancock’s motion passed unanimously. Hancock said he did so because there would be some “performance related discussions.”

— Accepted a $600 donation from Mr. and Mrs. Dean Shaw.

— Went into executive session to discuss student discipline matters.

— Adjourned.