Board expects funding shortfall

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2016

BUDGET TIME: Monday, the Pearl River County School Board heard the first preliminary report regarding the 2017 Fiscal Year budget.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

BUDGET TIME: Monday, the Pearl River County School Board heard the first preliminary report regarding the 2017 Fiscal Year budget.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

Monday, members of the Pearl River Central School District’s Board of Education heard a summary of the first phase of the 2017 Fiscal Year Budget from the district’s business administrator T.J. Burleson.
Student enrollment, which Burleson said has leveled out the past couple of years, is at 3,000.
Burleson told the Board that the district hasn’t been fully funded by the Mississippi Adequate Education Program since 2008.
“This year we are going to be short of being fully funded by $1.1 million,” he said. “Imagine what we could do with that kind of money.”
This will be the fifth year in a row the district hasn’t asked for an ad valorem tax increase, Burleson said. The district currently asks for about 61 to 62 mills, he added.
Due to a lack of state funding, the district has been “eating” into the district’s savings, Burleson said. About $2 million of savings has been spent in the past few years.
Beginning next fiscal year on July 1, Burleson estimates there will be about a $4.4 million fund balance. Board policy dictates that twenty percent of the revenue be held in reserve.
“With the way the budget’s looking,” he said. “We’re looking at an $85,000 deficit next year.”
Burleson also asked the Board to consider a couple of add-ons to the budget.
He said the district has a serious problem with out of warranty computer equipment. A lot of the equipment is more than seven years old. The estimated cost to replace that equipment would be about $200,000, he said.
The second item Burleson asked the Board to consider is the Community Eligibility Program. The program would provide free breakfast and lunch for all students at the Upper and Lower Elementary and the Endeavor School during the school year. The cost to the district would be about $50,000.
In other action:
• During the meeting’s public comments session, Matt Henley addressed the Board about the elimination of the district’s horticulture class. Henley said agricultural science is “near and dear to his heart.”
He explained to Board members that he understands there may be budget constraints or a lack of student interest, but he posed these questions to the Board, “Why don’t the students have an interest? How are we teaching it?”
Lumpkin said that in 2012, the Mississippi Department of Education began phasing out the agricultural programs. Since that time, the district created a horticultural class. However, there has been a decline in student interest in the past two years, where about 10 students sign up for the program, Lumpkin said.
“Some of the things you mentioned are exactly some of the reasons why we had to cut the class,” Lumpkin said. “It does come down to a numbers game.”
School Board President Jeremy Weir said that just that morning, he attended a meeting and spoke with an MSU Extension agent from the Hancock County Office who said their agents are willing to teach these type of classes.
“That may be an option to use outside of the traditional classroom,” Weir said.
Both Lumpkin and Weir said they would keep the discussion open and see what can be done to keep an agricultural class in the district.
A budget workshop will be held on June 27 at 5:30 p.m. in the central office boardroom at 7441 Hwy. 11, Carriere.

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