No tax increase needed for South Panola budget 6/26/2015

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 26, 2015

No tax increase needed for South Panola budget

By Rupert Howell
South Panola School officials feel that no local tax increase will be needed to fund the district for the coming 2015-2016 school year after being presented a $42 million budget with approximately one-third coming from local sources during a budget hearing held Tuesday.
One visitor and a member of the media were present with trustees when District Financial Director David Rubenstein presented crunched numbers through color graphs showing where the $42 million originates and where it will be spent.

The district burst through the 55 mill cap to fund general maintenance last budget year due to a decrease in taxable property brought about by exemptions offered through state laws.
One of those exempted from school tax, South Mississippi Electric Power Association, came through with a donation of $600,000 that was a large reason the district’s projected $1.2 million deficit turned into a $250,000 surplus.

Wilder also credited the districts’ department directors for much of the savings, later stating that some of the money saved would have to be spent in “playing catch up” in areas such as buses and maintenance.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The recent bond issue of $4.6 million for a ninth grade building at the high school will not raise millage as it will be paid through a continuation of existing millage already being collected.
Rubenstein’s presentation revealed that $308,000 is being spent by the district for four pre-kindergarten classes with outside funds paying an additional $50,000 for two assistant teachers.

“We need to expand (pre-k classrooms) if the opportunity presents itself,” Wilder suggested—a recommendation that was obviously agreeable with trustees, but not yet affordable without state assistance.

The district will also get a $630,000 technology upgrade paying only 15 percent of the cost with the remainder coming through E-rate, a tax collected on phone bills to assist schools and libraries in keeping up with technology upgrades.

Wilder also noted that South Panola’s district administrative costs are ranked 19th lowest of the 146 school districts in percentage of cost to operate.

“We are operating in a shell of what some districts operate with,” the superintendent stated.
Trustees voted last week to give raises to several areas that either weren’t included with raises in the previous budget year or who were not included with mandated state raises.

Also revealed during the public hearing was that South Panola’s average of $9,110 per student expenditure was below the state average of $9,209.

Final budget approval is scheduled for Wednesday, July 1 at noon in the Batesville Elementary School auditorium.