Natchez-Adams School budget on track

Published 12:10 am Monday, June 13, 2016

NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams School District Board of Trustees have not met about the 2016-17 budget since ousting the former superintendent, but officials say the district should still be on track to meet the state deadline.

The district’s business and finance manager Monica Anderson said the district normally adopts the budget in early July, and this year it would more likely be completed later in that month. The deadline to have it submitted to the state and county is Aug. 15, Anderson said.

The school board will have to have at least one more budget work session. The board has a regularly scheduled meeting set for June 21, and Anderson said she’d aim to discuss the budget at that meeting or at a specially called meeting with the board around that time.

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From there, the district will host a public hearing on the budget process, asking for public input, at some point in July. Seven days after that, should no major changes be made, Anderson said the board would adopt the 2016-17 budget.

“I have been working on the budget and hopefully I can get them a pretty good rough draft by the end of next week,” Anderson said. “We will have the budget ready for the Aug. 15 deadline.”

Former superintendent Frederick Hill’s contract was terminated by the board in April, with board member Phillip West citing legal troubles that found Hill in violation of civil rights laws.

Before being terminated, Hill had scheduled three budget work sessions that Anderson said gave her a good foundation on which to start her work. Since then, she has started working with Interim Superintendent Fred Butcher.

“We had talked about the revenues and the potential cuts from the state,” she said. “Mr. Butcher had some changes, but now it’s really just a matter of finalizing the salaries and getting them in there.”

Butcher said the board would resume its budget meetings soon.

“We are looking at the staffing situation,” he said. “As soon as we get a handle on the staff situation, we will resume our meetings.”

Butcher was referring to the number of vacancies for teachers and other certified staff the district currently has. The number was 45 positions at the end of May and a total staff shortage of approximately 60.

The district is projecting revenues of approximately $32.7 million, which includes about a $250,000 cut from the state and a $750,000 cut from federal revenues. The revenues only include local, state and federal sources.

“It is also predicted (Gov. Phil Bryant) will have more cuts in there,” she said. “Hopefully we will have more concrete information before the end of June.”

Board member Cynthia Smith said she had confidence in Anderson, who has worked in the business office for a number of years before being named the manager recently.

“One of the strong suits in the Natchez-Adams School District has been our business office,” Smith said. “I think having someone familiar with the system has helped with this transition.”

West, who was sworn in during late March, hasn’t been a part of the budget discussions due to the time he came on board and his call to fire Hill.

“The timing was a bit difficult for us to be changing superintendents, but that was beyond our control, so to speak,” he said. “I think we have made it work up to this particular point, and I am pleased with that.

“Now we will have more time to delve into the budget and other kinds of things, and prioritize as it relates to the future of the school district.”

School board member Benny Wright said he has been waiting on board President Amos James Jr. to place the budget on the agenda.

“We have always been on time, but that was under the leadership of the previous board president and superintendent,” Wright said. “At this point, with the new leadership, we will just have to wait and see.”

James said he was waiting on Anderson and Butcher to create a budget document to discuss.

“I’m ready to roll,” he said. “I don’t think we are really behind.”

Board member Thelma Newsome did not return calls or a message left on her home number.