Prentiss County schools look to trim more than $1 million

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

BOONEVILLE – The Prentiss County school board is scouring its operations for places to trim as it prepares for the possibility of further budget cuts by the state.
Acting Superintendent Todd Swinney presented a proposal to board members at Monday’s regular meeting in response to their earlier request for areas where teacher and athletic cuts could be absorbed.
The state cut funding for Prentiss County by about $582,000 in September 2009 and an additional $372,000 in January 2010, a reduction of about 8.65 percent of allocated funding. Similar cuts were made throughout the state’s education system.
Curriculum coordinator Nancy Johnson worked with other staff members to develop the proposal to align with state requirements by grade and subject area. Based on those criteria the proposal includes the following:
* Teaching positions could be reduced at each school: Hills Chapel, four or five teachers; Jumpertown, three teachers; Marietta, two or three teachers; New Site, two teachers; Thrasher, three teachers; and Wheeler, two teachers. Savings from staff reduction of 15 teachers, based on first year teacher pay, would be $554,578. For 18 teachers eliminated, the savings would be $665,493.
* Cuts could be made in athletic programs: Hills Chapel, $4,000; Jumpertown, $16,250; Marietta, $2,000; New Site, $7,250; Thrasher, $11,750; and Wheeler, $16,500. Savings would be $57,750.
* Each school is asked to return $60,000 of special money they receive from a settlement with the Booneville School District for Prentiss County students who attend city schools. Savings would be $360,000.
The proposal estimates that the school district could regain $1,083,243 of funds in these three areas.
Purchase orders that were completed using the special funds will be honored, but board members asked each school to refrain from making further purchases unless absolutely necessary.
Board member Lisa Slack noted that if spending continues at the present rate the district would reduce its reserve fund from the approximately $1.4 million that it had at the start of the school year to about $577,400 at the close of the school year.
Cuts as high as 15 percent could be coming in the next school year as the state struggles with revenue collections.
Contact Lena Mitchell at 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com