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School board hears residents’ concerns about budget

JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Natchez resident Jean Reed asks a question to members of the Natchez-Adams School Board during a public hearing on Wednesday afternoon which focused on the district's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Natchez resident Jean Reed asks a question to members of the Natchez-Adams School Board during a public hearing on Wednesday afternoon which focused on the district’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

NATCHEZ — Natchez residents may soon be footing a $12 million bill to help balance the Natchez-Adams School District budget.

The school board presented the $39 million budget at a public hearing Wednesday.

JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Natchez resident Gene Simonton asks a question to members of the Natchez-Adams School Board during a public hearing on Wednesday afternoon which focused on the district's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Natchez resident Gene Simonton asks a question to members of the Natchez-Adams School Board during a public hearing on Wednesday afternoon which focused on the district’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The budget projects the Natchez-Adams School District will generate $39.61 million in revenue and spend $39.35. The budget leaves the district with a $225,722 surplus and an ending balance of $24,979,140.

Barnett said the excess funds would be used to pay for renovations and repairs to aging school buildings.

One critical component of the budget is a 1.56 millage increase in ad valorem taxes, Business Manager Margaret Parson said. The requested increase in ad valorem tax added to the existing millage equals $12 million in revenue for the school district.

School board President Wayne Barnett said the increase is necessary to make up for a decrease in state funding.

“We are putting children first with every decision that we make,” Barnett said about the budget. “Sometimes we have to make hard decisions.”

The ad valorem tax would affect every Adams County homeowner differently, depending on property values.

JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Natchez-Adams School District board President Wayne Barnett, right, talks about the age of buildings currently being used in the district during a public hearing on Wednesday afternoon which focused on the district's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Natchez-Adams School District board President Wayne Barnett, right, talks about the age of buildings currently being used in the district during a public hearing on Wednesday afternoon which focused on the district’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

For example, the owner of a house valued at $100,000 would see an increase of $14 per year, for a total of $538 in taxes directed to the Natchez-Adams school district each year. Currently, Natchez residents who own property valued at $100,000 pay $524 in taxes annually for school use.

The school board has the authority to request the additional funding from the county. The county cannot, by law, deny that request. But the board of supervisors sets the tax rate and will ultimately be charged with determining whether the overall ad valorem tax rate goes up or down.

After giving an overview of the budget at Wednesday’s meeting, Barnett asked the public for comments.

Natchez resident Gene Simonton asked if the school board would be willing to sell unused buildings.

“People are sick and tired of taxes being increased every time the wind blows,” Simonton said. “I know you are doing it for the children, but you have to live by your means.”

The school board owns a total of 14 facilities around Natchez. Of those, Barnett described approximately five that are not used for students, including the Braden Administrative building — used by the school board and other Natchez-Adams School District officials.

“We could certainly sell the old buildings, but it isn’t something we have discussed,” Barnett said.

Board members were also questioned about already implemented, cost-saving measures.

Superintendent Fredrick Hill said the board hadn’t decided on specific cost-saving measures, but listed several possibilities.

Among those possibilities are eliminating empty positions and not buying textbooks. Hill said not buying textbooks would save the school district approximately $200,000.

He also raised the possibility of layoffs or pay cuts.

“There is absolutely no way I will reduce the number of positions or salaries without reducing my own salary,” Hill said.

The board is scheduled to finalize and adopt the budget at its July 18 meeting.

 

 

 

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