NASD approves budget with no millage increase

Published 12:15 am Saturday, July 20, 2013

NATCHEZ The Natchez-Adams School District Board of Trustees adopted a budget Friday with a $250,106 increase in ad valorem tax funding from what it requested last year.

The budgeted ad valorem request was reduced from $12 million to $11,936,759, which will keep the number of mills at 52.44.

The district originally advertised that $12 million — or 30.28 percent — of its projected revenue would be financed through ad valorem taxes which would have increased the millage to 53.84 mills.

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Business manager Margaret Parson told board members Friday that the reduction would result in taxpayers not paying extra because of the school district.

“That would keep the mills the same they were at in 2013 in order not to raise taxes for the taxpayers,” Parson said. “Assessments have gone up, so that means there’s more people paying taxes or their property has been reassessed, but we would not be raising the mills.”

Board president Wayne Barnett suggested before the final approval to request the same amount of ad valorem taxes from last year — $11,686,653 — again this year.

“We cannot truthfully say that this is not a tax increase because some of our citizens will be paying more,” Barnett said. “I think it’s time to stop raising taxes … and make whatever adjustments we need to make to keep the faith of the taxpayers of Adams County.”

Board member Thelma Newsome said an even lower request would put the district’s quality of education at risk.

“Dr. Hill has provided us with a number of cuts which we asked him to do, and when I look at the cuts, there are some very important things on here that have been cut,” Newsome said. “I can’t see us continuing to operate in today’s times with the same amount of money each year when everything else is going up.

“We have to find the money to do it … and I think we’re doing a good job.”

Hill presented the board with $346,942 in budget cuts, which included reducing the district’s athletic budget by $42,832 and paying three counselors $196,448 through federal funding instead of local funding. Other cuts included a $12,748 reduction in district travel and $38,864 by not filling a current bookkeeper vacancy at Natchez High School.

Those cuts came after nearly $1 million in cuts to expenses across various departments, which included choosing not to purchase a new edition of textbooks for the upcoming school year and cutting 12 special education teacher assistant positions, among other things.

An additional $550,468 in cuts, which included a two-day unpaid leave for all administrators at Braden Administrative building, were also included in the final budget.

“These were the last rounds of cuts I could offer without directly affecting the students,” Hill said.

The school district must have its budget sent to the Adams County Board of Supervisors before Aug. 15.

The board also approved revised administrative salary formulas that included reducing school principals’ paid workdays in their contracts from 240 to 230 days.

Board members expressed concerns that district recruiting efforts would become more difficult if principals and administrators were being paid less than what others in the area make.

Hill said he agreed, but created the revisions per the board’s request.

“My personal thought: I would love to have principals at 240, but I did that out of response from the board,” Hill said. “I’m torn in what direction to go in this because I’m hearing we need to keep good folks, but I’m hearing we need to keep them at a lower (salary) level.”

The board approved the revised salary formulas and asked Hill to continue visiting the formulas.

“I sincerely hope for the next year that we’re not faced with the same dilemma,” Newsome said. “We sometimes put things in place that help us get through situations, so I hope we’ll reconsider this when we start looking at budgets (next year).”