Lee County Schools present new budget

By Chris Kieffer
Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Lee County School District does not anticipate a tax increase to fund its $68.17 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The district made an initial presentation of its budget on Tuesday during a public hearing at its central office. It is expected to adopt it during its regular meeting next Tuesday.

The budget calls for an additional $209,473 from local taxes than last year, but expects that money to be covered by the new property in the district. It expects to remain at 48.79 mills, but the county Board of Supervisors ultimately sets the tax rate based on their request.

The budget would be funded by $65.67 million in revenue. That means the district will have to draw about $2.5 million from its fund balance. The exact amount in the fund balance fluctuates throughout the year, but business manager Michael

Martin said the district would still end the year comfortably above the required 7 percent fund balance.

“The fund balance is healthy, but that is quite a hit for anyone to take in one year,” Martin said. “We’re healthy right now, but we can’t have too many years of a $2.5 million difference.”

The reason for it is from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program not being fully funded, Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said.

“We are not cutting anything yet, but it does require us to be frugal and vigilant in watching each dollar we spend,” Weeks said. “A lot of things in the past we paid for, now we won’t pay for.”

He cited a new marquee sign at Guntown Middle that was purchased by the PTO rather than the school district.

Lee County expects to receive $31.59 million from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. That is an increase of $411,207 from last year, but about $395,000 of that will go toward a state-mandated increase in the amount the district must contribute to the state retirement program.

The school district also will spend an additional $426,500 on salaries as a result of teachers advancing a step on the state’s salary scale. That increase is unfunded, Martin said.

Funding includes $34.39 million from state sources (52 percent), $17.38 million from local sources (26 percent), $6.95 million from federal sources (11 percent) and $6.95 million from other sources (11 percent). Other sources include its 3 mill loan, insurance recoveries and transfers between funds.

The district will spend $46.3 million – or 68 percent of its budget – on salaries for all of its employees.