District dodges increase

Published 12:06 am Friday, August 12, 2011

NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams School District found a way to eliminate a possible tax increase after some local money-minded maneuvering of the budget by the interim superintendent and administration.

The school board passed a motion at Thursday’s meeting to request the same amount of money from local taxpayers as last year — $11,121,570 — a figure which included a $380,846 decrease from the proposed tax request the board approved at last month’s board meeting.

The cuts were made in the past 30 days following a plea from Interim Superintendent Joyce Johnson at the board’s July 14 meeting — Johnson’s first meeting as interim superintendent — for the board to approve the budget, which included a tax increase. Johnson asked the board at that meeting to give her a chance to trim the budget before the next meeting when the final request had to be made.

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NASD Business Manager Margaret Parson said eliminating positions and transferring employees to other positions within the district under Johnson’s direction achieved the cuts.

Local taxpayer dollars were saved by eliminating one position and by transferring several employees to federally funded positions, Parson said after the meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Stanton Morris after the meeting zero employees were terminated in the shuffling of employees into vacancies.

Millage rates are expected to fluctuate this year as a result of tax assessments, Parson said at the July meeting, but the district is not asking for any more money than it did last year.

The district must send a request for local property taxes to the Adams County Board of Supervisors by Aug. 15.

The district’s 2011-2012 budget of $40,737,526 also reflects $4.49 million in revenue cuts from the state and federal levels.

Following Thursday’s open session meeting, former superintendent Anthony Morris delivered a closing statement to the board in closed, executive session and following a six-day hearing that spanned four-months to determine if he will be reappointed as superintendent for another year.

Board Attorney Bruce Kuehnle said the board planned on making its decision after Morris’ closing statement Thursday night.

If the board found in favor of Morris, he would be reappointed to his job for one year, at which point his contract would be up for renewal again.

An order containing the decision will be delivered to Morris’ attorney in a week or so.

The board cannot release the decision, however, until its official executive session minutes are published in approximately 30 days.

At that point, the public will have access to the vote count, Kuehnle said, but will not have access to any form of explanation or reasoning for the decision.

If the board decides to keep Morris on as superintendent, Johnson can choose to either be released from her six-month contract or fill another position with the district until December, Kuehnle said.

The board must base its decision solely on a transcript by a court reporter to conclude if the non-renewal of Morris’ contract was “based upon a valid educational reason or noncompliance with school district personnel policies,” a statute on the hearing procedure says.

Morris requested the hearing after the NASD school board voted at its Jan. 20 meeting not to renew his contract, which expired June 30 of this year.

According to state law, Morris personally funded legal expenses for the hearing and the school board used district funds to represent the board.

Board member Dale Steckler, the only member to vote against firing Morris, did not attend Thursday’s meeting.