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School district finalizing budget

NATCHEZ — Natchez-Adams School District officials have mapped out the mandatory expenses needed to operate the district in the upcoming fiscal year and will soon begin the process of identifying things to cut.

The Natchez-Adams Board of Trustees met Wednesday afternoon to discuss the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, examining the projected revenues from state, federal and local sources. Business Manager Margaret Parson told the board that the State of Mississippi would provide the district with $15,080,189 — a $330,057 decrease from what the state gave the district last year.

According to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program — a Mississippi Department of Education program that calculates how much state funding local districts should receive — the state has underfunded NASD by $2,234,694 since 2005.

Parson said she is unsure why the district is being underfunded by the state again this year but that it likely deals with a decrease in projected enrollment figures.

“From month one to month one of each school year, we are losing about 100 students,” Parson said.

Superintendent Frederick Hill said increases in federal and local funding would help make up for the state loss.

“It’s all going to balance out,”Hill said.

The proposed budget presented Wednesday also included costs for several of the district’s departments, including district maintenance, federal programs, special education and child nutrition.

The projected personnel and utilities costs for the upcoming fiscal year totaled $25,372,339 — an increase of $907,507.56 from last year.

The increase includes personnel and utilities for the Robert Lewis Magnet School, which was closed this year during the district’s reorganization, as well as additional positions at Braden Administrative Building and teacher positions at McLaurin Elementary School and Morgantown Middle School.

The additional positions at Braden include two clerical and one maintenance employees as well as a public relations position, which Hill said has been vacant for a number of years.

Hill said determining how many teachers and employees need to be at each school is difficult until he can see projected enrollment numbers at the end of this school year.

“We will have to put our fingers on where those students were lost and see which schools and grades are going to have the most impact,” Hill said. “We’re going to have up to 125 sixth graders leaving Morgantown, so the same amount of teachers can’t stay at Morgantown.

“We’re going to have to redistribute.”

The shift of sixth-grade students is anticipated this fall with the opening of the magnet school. The school will house 125 sixth-grade students in its first year, with the eventual goal of adding additional grades each year.

The board will meet again on May 23 to begin looking at the other expenses in the district that are necessary, but not necessarily mandatory, Hill said.

Some of those include maintenance and supplies, among other things.

“Those are things we have to determine how much of we need to operate the district,” Hill said. “Outside of the items we discussed today, everything that’s not mandatory are luxuries.

“We’re going to have to cut some things, and it’s not going to be good, but we have to survive.”

Hill said he would soon begin crafting a strategic plan for the district, which would list the top goals and objectives the district hopes to achieve.

Determining which expenses to include and cut in the budget will become clearer once the strategic plan is complete, board member Tim Blalock said.

“I don’t think they’re going to be hard choices if they’re all child-centered choices,” Blalock said. “To create good leaders and well-educated kids is the ultimate goal.”

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