District seeks same amount with smaller ‘pool’ 6/25/13

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 25, 2013

District seeks same amount with smaller ‘pool’

By Rupert Howell

School trustees for the South Panola District looked at budget figures Friday that represent $39 million in expenditures for the upcoming school year with approximately $11 million for the general fund coming from local sources.

The budget was presented by administrators and financial directors at Friday’s public hearing and the fact that the district will not ask for a monetary increase over last year may have given any concerned citizens a reason not to attend as only school officials were at the meeting.
Although no increase is anticipated, that doesn’t mean that millage will not rise come tax paying time.

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School millage for the general fund is capped at 55 mills and in recent years South Panola District has remained below that at least partially because LSP Energy  paid $1.6 million annually in lieu of taxes.

Approximately $700,000 of that was used to pay  bonded indebtedness for the high school building.

When LSP Energy was put on the tax rolls in 2011, raising the amount of taxable property, the company did not pay and filed bankruptcy when the taxes came due for 2012.
That money was recovered during the bankruptcy and amounted to approximately $3.6 million, with half of that used during the current school year for which it was budgeted and the remainder put into the school’s capital improvement fund which had been reduced to help cover the unpaid taxes.

The power generating plant operating under the name Batesville Generation Station and now owned by South Mississippi Electric Power Association, has pledged a donation of $1.2 million to the school district due in October that may be enough to fund the upcoming budget at the 55 mill cap.

The new owner qualifies as a non-profit rural electricity cooperative and is not subject to county property tax.

Because the facility is assessed at 15% of approximately $200 million for the prior two years, the amount of taxable property in the district drops by $30 million for both the school district and Panola County.

It will be difficult for the district to recover the  “money difference” because of the 55 mill cap limit.

Exact figures will not be known until the county administrator’s office begins the process of the county’s budget school, financial director Suzanne Covington explained.

Interim school superintendent Mike Foster who attended Friday’s meeting along with incoming superintendent Tim Wilder said, “From what I’ve seen the school district is in pretty good shape financially.”

The board will meet again next Friday at noon to approve the proposed budget.