No new taxes for Tupelo Schools

TUPELO – Even with an expanding laptop initiative and other new programs, the Tupelo Public School District will ask for no new taxes for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
“It’s already here; we will not increase taxes,” said retired deputy superintendent David Meadows, who serves as a consultant and is working with finance director Linda Pannell to develop the budget.
By law, the district is capped at 55 mills for district operations; additional debt service tax rates will remain stable for the 2010-2011 budget year.
State revenue is projected to increase slightly – less than 1 percent – to about $30.1 million; however, the local contribution Tupelo makes to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program will increase by more than 5 percent to $9.3 million, Pannell said.
“A bigger slice of our local dollars will go to the state for MAEP,” Pannell said.
Because of anticipated state budget cuts, the district plans to spend no more than 85 percent of the MAEP money, or about $26 million. If the cuts don’t come, the money can be redirected late in the year.
The district is still awaiting final budget figures for federal programs and special education funds, but it expects to receive 85-90 percent of its 2009-2010 budgeted amount.
Where possible, Tupelo special education programs have limited spending and that carryover will lessen the budget blow, Pannell said
“It will allow them to maintain staffing,” which is very important in providing services for special-needs students, Pannell said.
Projected local revenue from ad valorem taxes – which includes property taxes and car tags – is anticipated to be $25.6 million, essentially the same as the 2009-2010 budget year, Pannell said.
“I don’t expect it to change very much,” Pannell said.
In a challenging budget year, the district will have no reductions in force of the teaching staff, except for the Fillmore Center, where the district decided to contract alternative school services with a private educational company, Ombudsman, Meadows told the board.

Upcoming
- At noon July 8, the Tupelo Public School Board of Trustees will have a budget work session.
Formal budget hearing will be 5 p.m. July 27
Both meetings at the Hancock Leadership Center are open to the public.

What’s in a mill
- One mill represents a 1/1000th of the assessed value of a property. For the Tupelo Public School District, each operational mill is estimated to generate $470,000 and a debt service mill is expected to bring $480,000 for the 2010-11 budget year. For a person’s primary residence, there is a homestead exemption where they do not pay taxes on a specific portion of the home’s value.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal