NASD set on raising local taxes; amount undetermined

Published 12:15 am Friday, May 31, 2013

NATCHEZ The Natchez-Adams School District will ask taxpayers for more money next year, but how much they ask for has yet to be determined.

“The question now is how much and not if,” school board President Wayne Barnett said. “When (Superintendent Frederick) Hill looks at you and says, ‘I’ve cut all I can cut without affecting the quality of education,’ you have to listen to him.”

Hill presented the school board a revised budget proposal Thursday that included $550,468 in cuts to the $911,906 deficit in the district’s budget.

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Those cuts included eliminating several coaching vacancies and cutting travel and administrative salaries by 10 percent.

“There’s nothing easy about cutting this much from any budget,” Hill said.

After the cuts, the district’s expenses are still $361,438 over its revenues.

Hill presented the board with an option to cut an additional $300,763 by requiring all district employees to take a three-day unpaid leave.

Those three days would be professional development days on the school district’s calendar and would not be days in which students would be at school, Hill said.

Hill said the option to furlough teachers and employees is listed in their contracts, but also asked board attorney Bruce Kuehnle to review the proper procedure.

“We’re still looking at an overage of $60,000,” Hill said. “In order for us to make this work, we can ask for the same amount of money and cut $60,000 or ask for more.”

Board member Thelma Newsome asked Hill if there were any more cuts left to make to the budget.

Hill said the only option would be to add more furlough days for district employees.

“I don’t think any of us are wanting to ask for an increase in taxes, but we have got to have school, and we’ve got to have teachers to teach children,” Newsome said. “I personally don’t think we need to cut any more days for teachers.

“If that means asking for $60,000 … I don’t think $60,000 is a lot to ask for, and it’s a lot better than $900,000.”

Board member David Troutman agreed that cutting three days of professional development for teachers was more than enough.

“I’m a teacher, so that’s where I know I get my money, and I wouldn’t appreciate a three-day cut,” Troutman said. “I also know that if my superintendent was taking a five-day pay cut, it would make me feel a little better.

“I wouldn’t feel good about it, but I would feel like we were all taking the pain.”

Newsome said those days are essential for teachers to prepare for the district’s upcoming transition to the Common Core curriculum, a set of nationally adopted standards.

The district must be fully implement in those standards by the 2014-2015 school year, but NASD administrators decided to begin teaching the material this upcoming school year.

“If we can’t provide training for teachers and doing all these things we’re expected to do, I don’t see it working,” Newsome said. “I’m sure we’ve cut as much as we can possibly cut and unless we have to, I don’t want to see those teachers not have those three professional development days.”

Troutman and Newsome requested Hill make two more budget proposals —one that includes an additional $60,000 in revenue from a tax increase and the savings if three days were cut from teacher salaries and another proposal that includes an even higher tax increase and fewer cuts to teacher salaries.

“I’d like to look at doing (a budget) if we kept the three days and asked the county what we would need to ask for without cutting those days,” Newsome said. “Maybe one with no days (cut), one day (cut), two days (cut) and three days (cut) and then bring us something back for us to look at for the next board meeting.”

The proposals will be presented at the board’s next monthly meeting on June 13.