June 25, 2014 11:00:16 AM
Starkville School District officials project the system will require a 65.24-mill tax levy to operate under its Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget, a slight increase from FY 2012-2013's and FY 2013-2014's 62.96-mill rate.
While school taxes could increase for the coming year, SSD projects the rate will drop to 64 mills in FY 2015-2016, the same year Oktibbeha County School District will merge with the city system, and drop to about 62 mills across the next four fiscal years.
Tuesday's public hearing marked the first step needed toward finalizing the budget. The school board is not expected to take action on the matter until next month. Only two school board members were present at the meeting.
The district maintenance fund, SSD's primary operating stream, accounts for 49.97 mills of the entire potential levy. An additional mill helps fund Millsaps Career and Technology Center, while the district will use a combined 14.27 mills to service bond indebtedness and limited tax notes.
Federal and 16th section funding streams are projected to decrease in the upcoming budget, dropping SSD's total projected revenues to $47.66 million from last year's $48.29 million. In turn, local funding sources are expected to yield $19.26 million with the new millage rate compared to FY 2013-2014's $18.21 million, according to SSD's budget presentation.
Local and state funding sources are forecasted to constitute almost 84 percent of revenues, while federal dollars will make up about 14 percent.
Under the proposed budget, SSD's proposed expenditures balloons from $47.5 million to $54.7 million. The largest increase, an additional $7 million for construction costs, is covered by a previously approved millage levy the school board OK'd in anticipation of renovations prior to consolidation.
Property taxes are calculated with mills. One mill is worth one-thousandth of a dollar. For example, if the millage rate is 20 mills, you would pay $20 for every $1,000 of assessed value on your property. The assessed value of a property is the appraised value multiplied by the assessment ratio (10% for residential properties). A property appraised for $100,000 in this example would pay $200 in taxes.
Municipalities, counties and school districts each establish their own millage rates to meet budgetary needs.
The district's instructional costs are expected to increase about $900,000, while debt service will cost the district $4.05 million, or an additional $659,937. Other expenditures, including support services, non-instructional services and 16th section costs, will decrease under the projected budget.
The district will utilize an additional $393,000 to pay for an additional teacher at both Sudduth Elementary School and Starkville High School; two guidance counselor positions at Sudduth and Ward-Stewart Elementary School; a special education teacher and a special education assistant; new computers and wiring at Overstreet School; funding for special projects; and classroom furniture.
Combined, instruction and support services make up 68 percent of forecasted costs, while debt service only accounts for about 7.5 percent of SSD's projected expenses.
Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding is projected to increase about $81,000, but SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway noted that state continues to underfund the program, causing the district and others across Mississippi to miss out on key monies.
Due to state-mandated consolidation with Oktibbeha County School District, enrollment projections are expected to jump from 4,274 students to 5,174 in 2015. District officials predict the system will service almost 5,500 students by 2020.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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