With time running out, budget is top priority for CMSD

June 22, 2013 7:20:38 PM

Sarah Fowler - [email protected]


The looming budget deadline is a top priority for Columbus Municipal School District Interim Superintendent Edna McGill. 


McGill was appointed as interim superintendent on a temporary basis during a special meeting of the CMSD board of Trustees Thursday. She started work on the budget Friday morning. 


McGill will serve as superintendent while the board searches for an interim replacement for former superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell. Liddell was terminated Monday. 


According to state law, all school districts must submit a budget to the Mississippi Department of Education by August 15. State law also mandates the school board hold a public budget hearing at least one week prior to submitting the budget. 


During Thursday night's meeting, former board president Currie Fisher made a motion to table an item on the agenda that would hire additional personnel to assist in the budget process. 


The item read: "Discussions, consideration and actions regarding resumes of individuals to assist the CMSD budget with budget development." 


Fisher made the motion to table the discussion until the board's July 17 meeting. The motion passed 5-0. 


Immediately after her appointment Thursday night, McGill said the budget was her top priority. 


"That is absolutely a top priority," McGill said. "It just must be. We have to have all of that in place to know what we can do and the programs we can actually fund." 


Friday morning, McGill met with deputy superintendent Craig Shannon and federal programs coordinator Anthony Brown to discuss the district's budget needs. 


"Mr. Shannon and Mr. Brown have done an awful lot of work in that area and we'll be looking at that and beginning to move forward with that," McGill said. 


Shannon said he and Brown have been working on budgeting the district's personnel needs but time is of the essence. 


"Personnel decisions and needs have been identified," Shannon said. "We are now going through the budget line by line to look for savings in other areas of the budget with hopes of reducing the amount of requests that we submit to the city. 


"Time is of the essence. This is our top priority. It can be done, but it's going to take a lot of hard work. Decisions have to be made as quickly and as efficiently as possible with the mindset that no money can be wasted." 


Currently, the district is operating without a chief financial officer. Former CFO and business manager Kenneth Hughes was fired May 3. Business office supervisor Felicia Elmore has taken on Hughes' duties since his termination. 


While the CMSD school board was voting to delay the hiring of someone to help with the district's budget, the Lowndes County School Board was holding a public hearing to approve their budget. 


Lotis Johnson, LCSD business administrator, said approving a budget before the fiscal year ends on June 30 is imperative to operating a district. 


"Our fiscal year ends June 30. You want to start your year off with an approved budget. Most districts approve it in June," she said. 


Johnson said the county school's budget will be approved June 28 at 5 p.m.

Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.