Picayune school district requests same budget level

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Administrators with the Picayune Municipal Separate School District are requesting the same amount of funding for the coming school year.

District Finance Director Lisa Penton suggested the board request the same amount of ad valorem funding from the county as they have the past four years, which was approved. Those funds come from taxes collected on real property, such as homes and vehicles.

That amount would total $8.2 million, Penton said.

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The district is expected to experience $600,000 in general budget overruns, but there is enough in the fund balance to cover the shortfall, Penton said. Harrell said the state requires each district to maintain a savings of seven percent of their yearly operation budget, however the board recently set a precedence to increase that amount to eight percent.

“Right now the fund balance is a good bit above that,” Harrell said.

Penton estimates the district may also fall short on debt payments, as they did the past school year.

Penton estimates the shortfall to be about $40,000, and if that figure is correct the district should be able to avoid taking out a loan to cover the amount.

“Hopefully it will be small and we can just absorb it,” Penton said.

Harrell said if the amount is greater than Penton’s estimate she will present the board with a couple of options at a later date.

Before the board meeting, the district held a budget hearing during which Penton informed the board that the district has the funds necessary to cover teacher pay raises approved during the last legislative session. Other districts are not so lucky, she said.

Penton said Mississippi Adequate Education Program guidelines mandate students spend 60 percent of their daily instructional time at school. If they do not, funding is cut to that district. Picayune received full allocation of those funds for the coming year, Penton said.

Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said the time students spend in their dual enrollment class counts toward the 60 percent requirement.

Some buses are aging within the district. Penton estimates that the majority of their buses are 1998 or newer model years, about 46, but there is a minority of buses that were built prior to 1998. Those buses need to be replaced soon.

Penton said the last time the district purchased buses was in 2002. Harrell said the typical lifespan for a school bus is 10 to 20 years.

Superintendent Dean Shaw said a new school bus equipped with air conditioning costs the district $93,000. No action was taken on the matter.

Picayune is the only district in the state applying for the Community Eligibility Provision, which if approved would provide free lunches to all students in grades Kindergarten through sixth. Harrell said if the program is successful it could expand to the junior high and high school. The board approved applying for the program during a previous meeting, but concerns prompted the administration to request the board to table the application until more information could be gathered. Harrell said the administration has since established a cost of the program and feels comfortable moving forward with the application. The board approved making a revision to the application.

The board also approved a motion to apply for $65,000 in grant funding from the Lower Pearl River Valley Association to add to the district’s Pre-K program.

The grant would require a match, which Penton said would be covered with $43,000 in state funds. If approved the funding would provide another classroom capable of accepting an additional 20 students, Shaw said.

In other business the board:

— Approved a motion to enter into an agreement with May Metals Inc., who will pay the district $2 per computer for recycling.

The next meeting is set for June 24, at noon.