Natchez-Adams School District asks for less in budget

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Four people showed up for the Natchez-Adams School District’s public hearing to discuss its proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Four people showed up for the Natchez-Adams School District’s public hearing to discuss its proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams School District’s proposed budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year shouldn’t call for a tax increase because the district will ask for slightly less in local tax revenue than the budget for the current year did.

“For the past few years, we have been lowering our budget, and this year is not an exception,” said Tim Blalock, president of the school district’s board of trustees at a public hearing to discuss the proposed budget Monday.

The $40,246,243 budget calls for $12,678,622 in local revenue by way of the district’s ad valorem tax levy.

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That’s down $69,992 — approximately half of one percent — from the current fiscal year’s ad valorem tax budget of $12,748,614.

The amount the district will ask for from local taxpayers will make up approximately 30.5 percent of the total budget. The state will contribute approximately 43 percent of the budget, while federal dollars will make up 21 percent of the total funds and 2 percent will come from the district’s 16th section land holdings.

The proposed budget calls for 53 percent of funds — $22,785,863 — to be used for instructional services and 38 percent of funds — $16,033,732 to be used for support services.

It likewise calls for six percent of funds — $2,730,995 — to be used for non-instructional services, three percent — $1,107,766 to be used for debt service and for $20,000, which is too small to be rendered as a percentage of the total budget, to be used for the administration of 16th section lands.

NASD Director of Business and Finance Margaret Parsons said the district does not know the amount of millage it will seek for the coming year at this time.

“We can’t anticipate the mills because we don’t have the assessments yet, but the money we are asking for is less this year,” she said.

The school district’s current local revenues are based on a rate of 54.46 mills.

Even though the budget will seek less in local revenue, the total budget will increase $117,946, from $40,128,297 to $40,246,243.

That increase is partly because the state has given teachers a $1,000 raise, and with benefits associated with that raise salaries went up 12 percent, Parsons said.

The hearing also included discussion of how revenues were spent in the last year.

The district spent $10,253 for each of its 3,541 students in 2014.

That doesn’t take into account, however, the fact that the district provides special education services for private schools in the county as well as for its own students, Blalock said.

“The federal government gives title funds to the school district, and the school district is in charge of parceling out those funds where it is needed because we have a duty to the children of Adams County, even if the children of Adams County go to a private school,” he said. “The private schools get quite a bit of money, but that shows up on our budget, not theirs. I don’t understand why it is the case, but that’s the way it works.”

If the district breaks out the different funds that are used to support students in private schools, the total comes to approximately $5,700 per student in the NASD, Blalock said.

When a member of the public asked the board why the NASD spends more on central administration than the state average — the district spent 6.35 percent of its budget on central administration during 2014, while the state average was 4.64 percent of the budget — Blalock said it was because Adams County has more population than many areas of the state.

“Mississippi has 82 counties, but we don’t have big cities in ever county,” he said. “Most of those counties are rural and depopulated.

“They don’t need as many people as we do.”

Blalock said the board would likely adopt the budget and send its request for funding to the Adams County Board of Supervisors at the school board’s July meeting.