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Starkville spells out $54.4M school budget

 

Bonnie Coblentz

 

Starkville school officials are expecting another lean year for 2010-2011 as expected state funding in the $54.4 million budget will be about $1.5 million less than last year after the cuts. 

 

What is typically considered state funding is that provided through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, or MAEP funds. In 2009, Starkville received MAEP funding plus add-ons, which include such things as special, gifted and vocational education, of $18.3 before cuts and $16.8 after cuts. In 2010, MAEP funding is a flat $16.7 million with no add-ons. 

 

Superintendent Judy Couey said it is "very likely" the state will take back during the year some of the money it is allocating to school districts now, much as they did at a few points last year. Finding places to cut the budget and stay in the black was difficult. 

 

"We hit operations and transportation pretty heavily," Couey said, adding that administrators from principals and higher voluntarily took a five-day furlough this fiscal year. 

 

"We''re working and we''re not getting paid," Couey said, clarifying that this was not time away from the office. 

 

State law allows districts to furlough teachers for three days as a budget-cutting option, but Couey said this would be a last resort. 

 

The proposed budget calls for total revenues and expenditures of $54.4 million. 

 

Despite the lean times, the Starkville School District should end this year with a fund balance of just over 7 percent, which is what the state considers ideal. The proposed budget for 2010-2011 would keep that same fund balance. 

 

One way the district cut expenditures was by eliminating 26 teacher assistant positions for the upcoming school year. There were 74 TAs for the 2009-2010 school year, and just 48 of these were retained for the coming year. No certified teachers lost their jobs in Starkville. In all, 32 positions were vacated through retirement, resignation or relocation, 24 were filled, and four to eight of these open positions will be eliminated 

 

The tax rate for the upcoming school year is 66 mills, up just slightly from the 65.52 mills levied last year. Total operational mills remain at 53.68, with the slight increase coming from bond indebtedness. 

 

"There was no change in the mills levied for operational expenses," Couey said. 

 

Although no members of the public typically show up for public hearings on the school''s budget, there were several in the audience Tuesday night. Six asked questions or made comments. Among the issues raised were the cost of the new ID badges to be required of students in grades 6 and higher; confirmation that gifted programs are not being cut; sports budgets; supplements for nationally certified teachers; and a breakdown of what types of items are included in various budget expense categories. 

 

The board did not take any action on the budget Tuesday, but will vote on it at a later meeting.

 

 

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