By Rupert Howell
School trustees approved a recommended budget for $39,796,221 for South Panola School District last Friday despite not having complete figures from the State Department of Education due to failure of Mississippi lawmakers to yet approve a budget.
The school district is seeking $8,606,102 from ad valorem taxes as the local share of the budget. While the proposed budget was approved with the understanding there will be no tax millage increase, the budget does include an increase through new property constructed in the district. Approximatley $8,000,000 of the local request is for operations with the remainder to be used for debt service and past year shortfalls.
Although the meeting was public, the public failed to show. Only trustees, administrators, the board’s attorney and a reporter were present at the publicized Friday noon meeting
Lack of a state budget complicates the district’s budgeting process as Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) funds make up a large fraction of the local budget — most going towards teacher salaries. The state requires school districts to propose their budgets without knowing for sure the number of MAEP dollars that will be forthcoming.
Key leaders in the Mississippi House and Senate compromised late Sunday on a nearly $5 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year, but it’s not known at press time whether Gov. Haley Barbour will agree to the plan before the year begins July 1.
South Panola trustees had approved employment the previous Tuesday during a regular meeting for 276 non-certified staff members, mostly food service workers, secretarial, maintenance, bus drivers and teaching assistants. The board had approved employment for returning teachers the previous month and an additional 14 teachers were approved for employment also at the Tuesday, June16 meeting.