Attendance could ultimately cost Natchez-Adams School District

Published 12:11 am Friday, February 21, 2014

NATCHEZ — A law requiring students to be in school 63 percent of each day could cost the Natchez-Adams School District nearly half a million dollars if worst-case scenarios hold form.

The NASD Board of Trustees heard a presentation from various department heads Thursday evening on projected revenue figures for the 2014-2015 budget.

The budget, Superintendent Frederick Hill said, projected an approximate 3 to 5 percent decrease in overall revenues as a worst-case scenario.

Email newsletter signup

The presentation was one of several budgeting work sessions planned in the coming months.

“This is simply to give you a snapshot and plan for what we’re looking at for next year,” Hill said. “We know it will be until April or even July or August before we really know what we’ll have, so these are all just preliminary figures.”

The greatest decrease in revenue came from Hill’s projection of the amount of funds received by the state for per pupil formula.

Since 1997, school districts in the state have received funding from a formula known as the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, or MAEP.

The formula factors in attendance and the percentage of students who receive free or reduced lunches.

A law that went into effect last year requiring students to be in school 63 percent of each day is impacting the amount of state funds the district receives, Hill said.

The law states any school aged child who is absent more than 37 percent of an instructional day must be considered absent.

The percentage is based on a standard 330-minute instructional day, with 63 percent equaling 208 minutes.

A high school student, for example, could only miss two classes in a school day to be considered present for that day.

Before the new law went into effect, each school district calculated attendance in its own way.

Hill said Morgantown Middle School and Natchez High School are where the district is struggling, with those schools reporting 80 percent attendance each day compared to 95 percent in the elementary schools.

The district is expected to receive $15 million in MAEP funds for the 2013-2014 school year.

Hill asked director of business and finance Margaret Parson to purposely decrease the revenue by 3 percent to account for the drop in attendance. The district would receive $14.6 million in MAEP funds if that projection is accurate.

“Everything we do, I’m going to try to do in worst-case scenario, so that if something hits us we will have planned for it,” Hill said. “This is a very rough estimate, but something we need to be planning around.”

The board will have another budgeting work session to discuss district expenditures on March 20.