School board hears from public about budget

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Amid confusion and questions, few members of the community attended a public hearing Thursday on the Natchez-Adams County School District’s proposed budget for 2003-2004.

Many of the questions raised by residents focused on whether the district plans to raise taxes &045; which school board members do not plan to do. But because the school board was required to publish a public notice of the hearing under the heading &uot;notice of tax increase,&uot; several people were confused.

Prudence Hernandez was vocal about not raising taxes. &uot;I don’t think this is the time to ask for more money,&uot; she said.

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Referencing President Bush’s tax cuts, Hernandez asked the board to rethink any raises in taxes.

On the contrary, the taxes will remain the same and the school board members said they have no intention of raising them.

The proposed amount to be received from taxes, however did increase from last year. The district is expecting more land will be taxed to provide the extra funds. If that does not happen, there will be budget changes because the board does not want to increase the millage.

School board President Dr. Norris Edney and district finance director Margaret Parson stressed the intent of the school board is not to raise taxes.

Community member Albert Metcalf asked if the millage is similar to other systems in comparison.

Parson said the state average is 39.69 mills, compared to the district’s 47.46 mills.

Other questions were asked about the new privatization of the bus system, which Edney said is working well right now.

School board member Johnny Dale explained the cash flow for busing has not really changed but now the district is receiving better service because the company has taken responsibility for the buses and the liability as well as replaced buses, adding 14 new buses and seven buses that are newer than the districts buses were.

As a whole, the budget looks much the same as last year’s budget, even though the district is in the third year of the state’s five-year plan of raising teachers’ salaries an average of 6 percent. Local revenue will fall 1 percent, with most of the revenue coming from ad valorem taxes. Federal revenue is up from 17 percent to 21 percent, state revenue also is up from 40 percent to 42 percent and the other category is down from 17 percent to 12 percent.

Expenditures also look much the same with the bulk of the budget going to instruction &045; 50 percent.