The Budget Battle for Eduction: Costs increase at local schools
Monroe Schools expenses increase $1.9 million

By ALICE ORTIZ
Staff Writer

The proposed 2005-2006 budget is $26.48 million, an increase of nearly $2 million from the 2004-2005 figures, according to Monroe County Superintendent of Education Jimmy Dahlem.
Much of that increase comes from higher salaries which are projected $1.4 million higher. “We did get more money than last year, but the salaries more than take it up,” said Dahlem.
The cost of education continues to increase in almost every area.
The County will spend about $260,000 for text books this year with $140,000 already spent. The district bought six new busses this year, for a total cost of $138,000. Those busses have already been delivered and are now being prepared with the new numbers and emblems.
The cost of diesel fuel to operate those buses has also increased, because the price per gallon is expected to increase.
Last year the District spent about $106,000 on diesel fuel. This years budget asks the Board to appropriate $135,000 for diesel.
Dahlem also told the board that the budget contained $45,000 ($15,000 for each high school Smithville, Hatley and Hamilton) for band and sports programs. The superintendent said he told the principals to “spend it on equipment.”
The school district has also purchased 151 computers for a cost of $150,000, and expect them to last five years, just as they were guaranteed.
The cost of employee health insurance went up $25 per employee this year, and now costing the District $305 per employee. The district has 206 employees covered in the current health insurance program.
Clearly, more funding will be needed for Monroe County Schools this year, as compared to last.
“It doesn’t bother me to ask for an increase in millage taxes because we have to do it to keep up with taxes and salaries,” Dahlem said. “We have a big budget and it takes big money to operate.”
New school construction could be difficult without more funding.
The State gives the District money to fund new construction, but that money is never received, according to Dahlem. “Any improvements that we make will have to come from our local money,” he said.
“We’re okay, but we have to watch our pennies like everybody else.”
Terry Dill attended the budget hearing wanting to know “what happens” to concession revenues at the schools and from school sporting events.
Dill was told that the concession revenues generally go into the school’s “activity fund” or to the booster club, but offered no approximate amount of money that may be involved, or any other specifics.
Dill said he thought concessions were a good source for more revenue for the District. And Dill told the board he thought the ballgame concessions probably amounted to a lot more money than they likely would guess.
Dahlem indicated that he would review some of the past bank statements from the schools in an effort to determine the exact amount of concession revenue at issue.
Cecil Harris also appeared at the meeting to inquired about the budget increase, and asked the board about revenue received from taxes on businesses located in the county.
Harris said that he was especially concerned about county school district revenue derived from Wal Mart, but which is situated within the Amory city limits, but not the Amory Separate School District.
Harris indicated that he had been made aware of a political effort to have the county district turn over its claim to the future revenues from Wal-Mart to the Separate School District.
Board members individually indicated that they had no willingness to consider, much less approve any such foregoing of revenue, under any circumstances.
A special board meeting was set for July 28 at 8 a.m. for approval of the budget.
A 9 am. meeting had already been set for a redistricting hearing. At that hearing, both the voting precinct and the school board district will be discussed. However, Dahlem explained that because approval of the U.S. Department of Justice is needed for school redistricting, the school related discussion must be considered first on July 28.
A special called meeting has also been set for 10 a.m. on July 28 to allow for open discussion of the newly implemented Monroe County dress code, before classes begin on Aug. 8.