NP Schools

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 28, 2011

North Panola: ‘dip’ into our savings still better than past

By Billy Davis

North Panola Schools must dip into its reserve funds to shore up its 2011-2012 budget, district officials said Monday.

The school district expects to use $250,000 of a fund balance that is projected to be $3.7 million when the fiscal year ends, said finance officer Levette Upshaw.

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Upshaw described the projected shortfall when she reported projected revenues and expenditures at a public hearing.

North Panola trustees approved the $19.5 million budget after holding the hearing.  

The fiscal year begins July 1 for public school districts in Mississippi.

The finance officer pointed out that North Panola is in better financial shape than in past years, when the district showed less than $1 million in reserves as recently as 2002.

Public school districts are required to maintain seven percent of their budget in reserves, Upshaw said at the hearing.  

Upshaw said the “dip” into the fund balance “is a lot less than what’s been done in the past.”

“But you can’t keep doing that,” she said, “because in the end you’ll be broke.”

A timeline of fund balance history at North Panola, which Upshaw prepared for the hearing, showed the district once showed a half-million dollar fund deficit, in 1995.

North Panola’s finances once triggered a takeover by the Miss. Department of Education, which mirrored the current takeover that was triggered by struggling student achievement.

The fund balance has remained in the black since 1995, climbing from $421,109 in 1996 as high as $4.3 million during the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

The $3.7 million projected fund balance for 2011-2012 is approximately $450,000 less than the $4.2 million fund balance for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.   

North Panola conservator Bob King, remarking about the $250,000 shortfall, said a one-time grant from the state Department of Education prevented the shortfall from climbing as high as $600,000.

The school district projects $17.3 million in revenues and $19.4 million in expenditures during the coming fiscal year, according to figures shared at the hearing.

King said the expenditure totals, which obviously outpace the revenues, include $1.88 million in school bonds for planned renovations at North Panola High School and Como Junior High.

He said the school bonds had to be included as expenditures in the budget, triggering the perceived gap between revenue and expenditures.