Tupelo School District expects level spending

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – While state and local funding should remain steady for the Tupelo Public School District this coming fiscal year, officials are anticipating cuts from federal sources.
“It’s very fluid at this point,” said Linda Pannell, school district director of finance, who briefed the board on preliminary revenue projections at its June 28 meeting. “I expect total expenditures to be about the same.”
The total 2010-2011 budget was $95.9 million, including the debt service.
Pannell will formally present the upcoming 2011-2012 budget at a public hearing at 5 p.m. July 19. The final budget is slated to go before the board at its regular Aug. 9 meeting. It must be approved by Aug. 15.
Local focus
The school district will get preliminary local revenue projections this week from city officials.
“We don’t expect to increase substantially,” Pannell said.
Regardless of how much money each mill is projected to bring in, the rates for school taxes will remain unchanged because the district has reached a 55-mill cap for operations.
A mill is 1/1000 of appraised property value. Ad valorem revenue includes property taxes on real estate, cars, boats and some business inventories.
Collection of the 2010-2011 revenues have gone well. Through May, the district has received $25.4 million in local ad valorem revenue, about 96 percent of the projected amount, with two more payments to come.
In past years, there have been shortfalls in tax collections, and the district has been required to take loans that had to be covered by additional property taxes.
“It will be very small if we have one at all,” Pannell said.
The proceeds from timber sales on Chickasaw section lands increased so the district will get $1 million for the 2011-12 fiscal year, about $200,000 more than last year.
“It helps offset some of the other,” Pannell said.
State funding
The state legislature maintained level funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, called MAEP. State money for classroom supplies and ad valorem tax reduction money has been reduced.
The district will have to absorb a $500,000 loss in state allocations designated to reduce ad valorem taxes. However, because of the 55-mill cap, the district doesn’t have the option of increasing taxes.
Because the state had to reduce MAEP funds in previous years because of dropping tax collections, the district will set aside 10 percent of its state funds, Pannell said.
“It’s just an uncertainty in the economy,” Pannell said.
If the money isn’t reduced, it will be spent based on a budget developed by district administrators and approved by the board, as they did this spring.
Federal funding
The district has been told to expect 15 percent cuts in Title I money and 10 percent cuts in special education. Federal funding of Title I is focused on improving academic achievement of disadvantaged students. A larger potion of Tupelo’s Title I funding goes to the King Early Childhood Education Center.
Questions on the federal revenue won’t be answered until the fall.
“Federal revenue is always a moving target,” Pannell said.
For example, McKinney-Vento Act funds, which are used for programs to benefit homeless children, were projected to be $25,000 for 2010-11, but the district ended up getting $81,000.
The district will use the last of federal stimulus funds this fall. What remains, less than $60,000, will be spent by the end of September.