School board member questions fairness of athletic budget

Published 1:29 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The Natchez Adams School District Board of Trustees adopted its fiscal year 2023-2024 operating budget and ad valorem tax levy during a special called meeting Monday before turning attention to the athletic budget, which a board member said seemed unfair to the girls.

As presented at a public hearing on June 27, the district’s budget request is the same as the previous year and should not increase taxes, officials said.

The school board makes its ad valorem tax request in dollars, which is converted into a millage when the Adams County Board of Supervisors adopts its budget and sets the millage rates.

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Of the district’s current $71,169,220 budget, $14,246,155 is obtained through ad valorem taxes. The projected budget revenue for the next fiscal year is $80,393,790, of which the same amount, $14,246,155, would be obtained through ad valorem taxes.

The district adopted the budget and tax request by a vote of 3-0, with board members Amos James and LlJuna Weir absent. Weir later joined the meeting and the discussion of the athletic budget via Zoom, stating she had to attend a parent conference for work as her reason for being late.

The adopted budget includes $210,000 for all of the district’s athletic programs.

However, board member Brenda Robinson questioned whether those funds were being fairly dispersed.

Cheerleaders, while attending as many football games as the players — with the exception of junior varsity cheerleaders attending certain away games — have traditionally paid out of pocket for their uniforms while football uniforms and equipment are paid for by the district, Robinson pointed out.

NASD Athletic Director Alphaka Moore said this is because any uniforms that are paid for by the district are district-owned and kept for at least two years before new ones are ordered according to the athletics schedule. However, cheer uniforms are tailored to each team member and are purchased by them to keep.

Each outfit and accessories are also costly, more than $1,000 each depending on customization and accessories. The uniforms may also include special event outfits such as pink for breast cancer awareness month, ribbons, pom poms, wind-breakers, shoes, duffle bags, etc.

“It’s a lot more technical than people realize,” Moore said.

She added after the meeting that if a student participates in cheerleading for more than one year, the student does have the option to use the same outfit again and only order the items needed.

“We want to make sure allocations are being made for boys and girls,” Robinson said. “We want to make it fair for everybody. … Parents should not have to come out of pocket when they are representing the district.”

Weir suggested that the district take on a percentage of the cost to lessen the burden on the team and explore cheaper ways of getting the uniforms.

“In the near future, we should evaluate our options. … We can order the uniforms and have a local company embroider them,” she said. “We can buy ribbons from Hobby Lobby. That’s what we have to do at Alcorn because even we can’t afford to pay what these girls are paying.”

With the new budget already approved, officials said it may be next year before they can take on any of the cost for the uniforms.

In other matters, Moore said that of the 639 students who participated in athletic programs last school year, more than 62 percent were eligible to continue playing at the end of the school year.  This means that 398 of those students maintained at least a C average or better while participating in sports, Moore said.

“We say C and above, but it’s really B and above and half of our students, which is really impressive. Many of our sports teams will receive recognition from the state as scholar teams,” she said.