No tax increase expected for Lee County Schools

TUPELO – Lee County Schools anticipate no tax increase will be needed to meet the district’s proposed $59 million budget for 2009-2010.
Right now, the district anticipates a $2.15 million increase in revenues, but is expecting local property tax dollars to remain flat, said Randy Thweatt, district finance director.
The additional funding comes from Legislature-approved salary increases for teachers with more than 25 years, an increase for retirees and an extra $599,000 allocation as one of 14 high growth districts.
The district added 11 new teaching positions, but has otherwise held spending basically level.
“We have 11 new positions due to our growth,” Thweatt said.
The new operating budget is basically the same as last year.
The district has set aside about $2.5 million for school construction projects, but those projects won’t go forward until late in the year, if at all. Likewise, the district expects to pass on its annual bus purchases – usually about $750,000 for 10 vehicles.
“We will hold off on that until spring,” Thweatt said. “We want to make sure we have the money to fund our teachers if we get cut again.”
This past spring, Gov. Haley Barbour had to cut state education allocations because of low tax collections. Lee County Schools lost $1.1 million in anticipated funding.
The current proposed budget does not yet reflect federal stimulus money for qualified school construction bonds or extra allocations for federal programs such as special education, school improvement, English Language Learners and homeless students, Thweatt said.
Formal approval for the construction money is still pending and the district is waiting for final figures on stimulus funding for the federal programs.
If the district is approved for the construction funds, work will go forward on six additional classrooms at Guntown Middle School and central heating and air on all campuses, Thweatt said.
Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal