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City, county school districts set budgets


Carl Smith



Oktibbeha County School District and Starkville School District officials have approved separate operating budgets for the 2014-2015 school year that, on paper, constitute $65.69 million in combined expenses. 


OCSD Conservator Margie Pulley approved the school system's budget Monday in a brief meeting - the conservator has full legislative authority for the district since it is under state control -- while SSD trustees unanimously OK'd the item with little discussion the next day. 


Both the city and county held budget hearings on their upcoming Fiscal Year 2014-2015 projections earlier in the month that drew little public participation. 


SSD will operate on a 65.24-mill tax levy for the upcoming fiscal year, while OCSD will utilize 55 mills, budgetary proposals from both districts state. 


The city school district's maintenance fund, its primary operating stream, accounts for 49.97 mills of the entire 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. 


Documents obtained from OCSD's Monday meeting do not clearly state how its county mill levy is divided for expenses. The county district is also in the process of issuing a small levy of up to 3 mills to help fund internal and city campus renovations ahead of 2015's state-mandated consolidation. 


OCSD is projected to take in $11.27 million from local, intermediate, state, federal and 16th section sources and spend almost $10 million on instruction and support services alone. Debt service will constitute an additional $322,212 for the year, and other requirements drive the district's total expenses to a projected $10.99 million. 


Federal and 16th section SSD funding streams are projected to decrease in the upcoming fiscal year, dropping the district'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 with the adjusted local millage. 


Local and state funding sources are forecasted to constitute almost 84 percent of SSD's revenues, while federal dollars will make up about 14 percent. 


SSD's proposed expenditures increase almost $7 million for the upcoming fiscal year after an physical improvements levy was approved by the school board last year. 


Debt service will cost the district $4.05 million, or an additional $659,937, in the upcoming fiscal year, but the expenditure only constitutes about 7.5 percent of SSD's projected expenses. As with OCSD, instruction and support services, a combined 68 percent, claim the lion's share of the city school district's upcoming expenditures.  


SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway is hopeful aldermen will allow the school system to use almost $500,000 in over-collected school taxes from a 1986 bond referendum to fund repairs to the Greensboro Center. 


A March study by Tennessee-based Structural Design Group states inspectors found "advanced decay" associated with roof trusses above the Greensboro Center's auditorium; green growth, mud and other evidence associated with water filtration; and deterioration associated with the building's fa├žade and masonry. 


City officials previously discovered the money sitting in a bank account still drawing interest after the bond was retired in 2006. Mayor Parker Wiseman approved a transfer of those funds to the school system, but the city is expected to legally attempt to take back the money after Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins said the move was made without board authorization. 


Starkville could legally take the money and deposit it into its own general fund, but aldermen would be required by law to lower city taxes in the same amount -- almost 2.5 mills. Further complicating matters, Wiseman said, is that county residents who live outside Starkville but within SSD's territory approved the matter. A tax break would not benefit those residents, and Wiseman said not using the money for school improvements constitutes a breach of trust with voters. 


The Greensboro Center's role after consolidation is not clear and would be determined by the school board at a later date. Holloway hinted last week at the possibility of the city providing the unified school system new space inside Starkville's new city hall once it is constructed. The city is currently exploring a move that would purchase Cadence Bank's Jackson Street location for Starkville Police Department use.  


Additional space could be freed within the new city hall if Starkville Municipal Court moves with SPD to the former bank. At least one alderman previously indicated interest in placing at least one additional department within the structure. 


OCSD's current administrative home, a Main Street structure built with Hurricane Katrina relief money in 2011, could be retrofitted for other governmental uses, including emergency management, District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said last year. 


State law requires the county to provide space, furnishings and utilities for the county school district's administration, and legislation this year says the county shall continue providing those services during and after consolidation.


Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch



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