Thursday, May 13, 2010
School district tightens budget
By SUE WATSON
The news was circulated by the Marshall County Board of Supervisors last week. Don Randolph, superintendent of the county school district, told supervisors the school board voted recently not to request an increase in ad valorem taxes for the upcoming 2010-11 school year budget.
“They have trimmed their budget down and won’t raise school taxes this year,” said Ronnie Joe Bennett, District 5 supervisor.
Randolph, in a separate interview last week, said the school board knows the supervisors have been struggling to provide resources for all county agencies.
“We are going with cuts in some areas instead of new taxes,” he said.
The budget will be stabilized because of numerous retirements this year from the system, he said. The costs to hire fresh teachers is less than what it costs to pay a teacher who has been in the system for many years, he said.
The belt tightening by the school district comes on the heels of a 10 percent reduction in funds from the state for the Mississippi Adequate Education program funds, Randolph said. He said academic integrity would not be compromised.
“We are looking at tougher times the next year (2011-12),” he said.
Supervisors complained that the state is putting more pressure on local governments to come up with money for things the state had been funding, including what is called unfunded mandates.
Bennett said the state has been ducking the political issues by passing unfunded mandates so they can say, “If your taxes go up, it’s not our fault.”
Consultant Gary Anderson agreed the state is shifting taxes down to the local governments, but he added that local groups are forming an alliance to put pressure on the Mississippi Legislature. The Mississippi Association of Supervisors, the Mississippi Municipal League, the Mississippi Tax Assessors Association and groups supporting education are concerned about the 2012 budget because the state will run out of federal stimulus funds and are expected to have less money from which to operate, Anderson said. The groups are working together on a strategy going into the 2011 Legislative Session, he said, to oppose unfunded mandates.
“Next year is what is going to be tough,” Bennett said. “If things (sales revenues) don’t pick up, it all starts falling on the counties. We are going to be dire.”
Bennett then referred to an article in the Mississippi Association of Supervisors’ magazine written by Derrick Surrette, the executive director.
Surrett said “no doubt that state budget cuts affect local taxes.”
In his article he quoted Johnny Stringer, appropriations chairman of the House of Representatives.
“This will be the largest shift in taxes from the state level to the local level in the history of our state,” Stringer said.
Declining state sales tax revenues are forcing state budget cuts that will shift the tax burden to local governments and ultimately upon homeowners, landowners and businesses, Surrette said.
“Property owners will now be required to pay more in taxes to support local schools, roads and bridges. Local property owners may be forced to pay for unfunded state mandates, such as homestead reimbursement and local confinement for state prisoners,” he said.
In other financial matters, chancery clerk Chuck Thomas reminded the board of supervisors that the cash-flow in this year’s budget is still a touch-and-go situation and that departments should be extremely careful about expenditures. The board approved paying bills totaling $335,604 at the May 3 meeting and of $120,755 for the May 10 meeting.
“Departments have to come in under budget because we started out low on beginning cash (October 1, 2009) this year,” Thomas said.
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