Residents make budget plea at NASD meeting

Published 12:04 am Friday, July 7, 2017

By Christian Coffman

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Natchez-Adams School District leaders fielded questions Thursday about the district’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

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Approximately 15 residents attended the public hearing.

District officials unveiled a budget that anticipates revenues of $40,262,637 for the 2017-2018 school year down slightly from the current year’s operating budget of $40,567,016.

Of the revenue sources, 34 percent or $14,533,561 is projected to come from local sources, including $13,751, 564 in ad valorem taxes.

The remainder 73 percent of projected revenue is slated to come from federal, state and funds from 16th section sources.

The budget was significantly impacted by the reduction in state funds through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, district officials said Thursday.

If MAEP were fully funded, the district would have received $16,873,507 from the state. The funding bill passed by the Legislature this year underfunded the district by $1,481,768.

Superintendent Fred Butcher assured residents that the board constantly looks at what they are doing, how they are doing it and how they can maximize the workday.

“The state of Mississippi cut us by a million and a half this year, so cuts have to be made,” Butcher said. “All of our welfare, all of our futures, are intertwined together.”

Proposed cuts include reductions in the district’s ombudsman program, teacher travel budget and in services such as supplies and telephone repair services.

Board accountant Monica Anderson said that the budget was “a work in progress” and relied on input from the community.

County resident Carolyn Read told the board that she wished the board gave locals more time to make decisions.

“I just think more is needed to be done, but people just need more time to understand what exactly is needed,” Read said.

Another resident, who did not give his name in the meeting, implored the board to not increase taxes in a way that would affect other senior citizens.

“Every month I have to live within my means … I know we all need money, we’re all broke,” the resident said. “So I would ask each of you to not put any more burdens on our senior citizens, because Natchez has become a senior citizen town.”

Of the projected expenses, 55.7 percent is slated to be spent on instructional services, including athletics and student activities. The remaining 44.3 percent is proposed to be spent on administration costs, support services  and debt service.

The cost per student is projected to be $11,094 for the district.

In 2014, U.S. Census Bureau figures show the average amount spent per student in Mississippi was $8,263, below the national average of $11,009.

Butcher said the number is as high as it is because of the large number of special-needs students in the district.

“Those are not rules that we set, they are guidelines that we go by,” Butcher said.

The district plans to submit its final budget plan to the board of supervisors on Aug. 15. At that point, the county will determine the millage necessary to generate the funds requested from the school district. School districts are limited to receive 55 mills, unless approved in a referendum.

The school district currently receives 53.05 mills from the county.