March 12, 2009
JACKSON -- The state Legislature is sending the governor a bill that provides an extra $3 million to the Mississippi Department of Education to seize control and bail out two school districts going broke.
However, Noxubee County is no longer among the four school districts the department had earlier said are in a fiscal crisis.
State education officials reviewed financial records and determined Noxubee and Kemper County school districts aren''t as troubled as previously feared.
"The districts have also provided MDE with additional information on available local funds that should provide them with enough cash to help them meet their expenditures for the rest of the fiscal year," state Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds said in a statement issued by his office.
However, two other school districts don''t have enough money and are to be placed under state conservatorship. The Commission on School Accreditation on Wednesday recommended that Indianola and Tate County school districts be taken over by the state because of budget problems.
The state Board of Education will meet next week and could ask Gov. Haley Barbour to declare an emergency so the districts can be put in state control.
The House and Senate on Wednesday passed a budget bill to give $3 million to the Department of Education for the costs of running the districts.
The bill, which is now headed to Barbour for his approval, also provides $1 million to help pay the cost of transporting Medicaid dialysis patients and $588,000 to correct budget shortfalls in district attorneys'' offices.
The additional education money was to come from federal stimulus funds, but lawmakers opted instead to use the state''s Unclaimed Property Fund, which is cash from bank accounts and other funds people leave dormant and forgotten for years.
The budget bill does empower the Department of Education to use whatever federal stimulus funds it gets.