Lee County School Board OKs $78.8M budget

news_education_greenBy Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Lee County School Board approved on Tuesday a $78.8 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The proposal passed during a specially called meeting matched the one presented during last week’s budget hearing. It is not expected to require a tax increase.

About $13 million of the budget’s expenses will be various construction projects using funds the district already has received from last summer’s bond approval. That leaves about $65.8 million in other expenses.

It will be funded with $64.26 million in revenue, requiring the district to spend about $1.5 million from its reserves. Business manager Michael Martin said the district will be able to absorb that and still keep its fund balance above the required 7 percent of the district’s maintenance budget.

However, Martin said, if state funding does not increase next year, the district may then need to either raise local taxes or make cuts.

Lee County Schools will receive $35.25 million from the state, which is about $3.8 million below what is required by the formula Mississippi uses to determine how much funding each of its districts should receive. Although that is about $625,000 more than the district received last year, the new teacher pay raise will cost the district about $981,000.

Other sources of revenue include $15.4 million from local taxes (24 percent), $7.1 million from federal sources (11 percent), $4.5 million from transfers between funds (7 percent) and $1.95 million from other local sources. The state funding represents 55 percent.

The largest expenditure is $47.2 million, or 60 percent, for salaries and benefits.

Also included in the expenditures is about $400,000 for technology needs, including networking upgrades, wireless access and computers. The district also spent an additional $235,000 to give all non-certified personnel a 2 percent pay raise. That is for all positions except teachers – including custodians, teacher assistants, bus drivers, administrators and central office personnel, among others.

Teachers will receive a $1,500 pay raise from a new state law.

To cut costs, the district will not fill five positions throughout the district that were vacated after the past school year. That includes four classroom teachers and one academic coach.

The budget was approved by a 3-0 vote. Board members Sherry Mask and Mike Mitchell, as well as Superintendent Jimmy Weeks, left the room during the vote. Mask and Mitchell each have children employed by the district. Weeks’ wife works for the district.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com