Natchez-Adams School District covers $757,000 deficit in amended budget

Published 12:30 am Thursday, October 19, 2017


NATCHEZ — Last week the Natchez-Adams School District was forced to take money out of its fund balance to cover a $757,389 deficit for the 2016-2017 school year.

NASD school board members approved an amended budget last week which included the deficit.

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The original budget for the school year approved on July 1, 2016, forecasted a $272,793 surplus.

Business and finance manager Monica Anderson said the deficit came as a result of a series of budget cuts from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) and fees from the architecture firm hired to design a new high school building the district plans to construct.

The MAEP is the funding formula the state uses to determine how much state money flows to local school districts to pay teacher and district employee salaries, among other distributions.

Anderson said, two cuts from the MAEP took away $143,003 in revenue the district had budgeted.

The first reduction, on Feb. 21, cut $80,906 and the second, on March 24, cut $62,097, which reduced revenue from the state to $16,178,269.

Office of Financial Services records indicate the Mississippi Department of Education budget was cut by approximately $4.8 million for fiscal year 2017, which affected all school districts in the state.

Cuts were also made to master teacher reimbursements and education enhancement funds for building and bus allocations, bringing the total loss of funding to $224,179, Anderson said.

The master teacher program allots a $6,000 salary supplement to teachers who meet requirements of and receive a certificate from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

Education enhancement funds are generated from sales taxes and are used for classroom supplies or equipment.

The total state cuts, Anderson said, nixed most of the surplus the school district had planned for the school year.

Anderson said the district also spent approximately $369,000 in architect fees when the district hired M3A Architecture to design plans for a proposed new high school and renovations to existing schools.

“Those were the drawings and everything dealing with the new building. We went to the county for that bond issue, and it failed,” Anderson said. “We expected some of that to come from the tax resolution, but it didn’t happen.”

Despite a delay in construction of the new facilities, Superintendent Fred Butcher said the plans the district purchased will still be used.

Unforeseen repairs and replacements added another $99,700 in expenses to the district’s budget deficit, Anderson said.

“Last year at the beginning of school, we had air conditioners going out everywhere. We had to buy new compressors, new condensing units,” she said. “We went way over the budget in that area with those problems with the buildings.”

Anderson said the aging buildings cause more repair expenses.

“That’s one reason we’re fighting so hard to get new buildings — we wouldn’t have to spend that,” Anderson said. “The new buildings would cut down a lot on the maintenance cost.”

In addition to unforeseen maintenance costs, the district also exceeded its budget for the educable child program fund by $147,800, Anderson said.

The educable child program instructs districts to send children with learning disabilities to approved facilities.

Though the district pays for students to attend an approved facility, the state reimburses a portion of that cost.

This year, Anderson said those reimbursements were less than the district originally expected.

Anderson said more students had to be sent to Millcreek of Magee, a behavioral health facility approved by the state education department.

Anderson said the $757,389 deficit will be paid from the district’s fund balance or “savings account,” which currently has an approximately $27 million balance.

The state accreditation board mandates that all districts maintain a 7-percent, or higher, fund balance, the ratio of expenditures to revenues.

“We’re still within the accreditation standards,” Anderson said. “They say we should keep a 7-percent fund balance and right now we’re at about 11 percent. So, we’re still above ground.”