Thursday, December 16, 2010
Randolph, Stone, Anderson give reports to county board
By SUE WATSON
Marshall County Superintendent of Education Don Randolph appeared before the board of supervisors last week to report on the school district’s financial outlook for the remainder of the fiscal year.
He said compared with other school districts in North Mississippi such as Tupelo, Oktibbeha County and Starkville, Marshall County is providing a good education for youngsters for less at $7,455 per student. Tupelo spends on average $9,979 per student, Oktibbeha County $13,251 and Starkville $10,370, he said. The figures were recently released by CREATE.
“You can spend a lot of money and get no results in levels,” he told the board.
“We haven’t had a lot to spend and would like more money from the state so we could spend more per pupil.”
On the positive side, the superintendent said school tax collections are up above last year by monthly comparison to about a 2.81 percent increase over this time in 2009. If collections continue on this trend, there will be no need to borrow money to finish the school year. Collections are running ahead of last year by several thousand dollars a month. This August the district collected $138,000, up by $50,000 over last year; $44,000 more in September this year; $9,000 more in October and $5,000 more than last year in November, he said.
School tax collections last year totaled $3.9 million and the school district budgeted for $4.3 million this year, he said.
A media report last week also said state tax collections were up and the governor will not have to cut budgets, he said.
“The indications are if collections stays up statewide, we are in good shape,” Randolph said. “Everything at this point in time is looking good. If we have no shortfall (locally), the school district will be in good shape if it gets what is expected from the state.
“We need to be able to stand up next summer and say – we held.”
Supervisor George Zinn III asked about the district’s dropout rate, and Randolph said it had decreased to 21 percent.
A new pilot program the state is working on will allow students with good grades to graduate after the 10th grade and go on to college or into the workforce, he said.
Students will take an exit exam in order to opt out of attending through the 12th grade.
“Students would follow that track and take the exit exam or stay in school,” he said. “It is a pilot program that will catch a lot of students who drop out at that age.”
Zinn asked if a requirement to pass state curriculum tests to graduate is a good idea.
“Personally, it’s the law,” Randloph said. “In my personal opinion, we should take an ACT score and graduate the student.”
Some states are not giving subject area tests, he said.
Some students freeze up on mandatory tests, said supervisor Eddie Dixon, a teacher at H.W. Byers school.
Sen. Bill Stone and consultant Gary Anderson followed Randolph.
Stone said he is in favor of a law change that makes graduation less test score dependent but relies on good instruction and passing in school.
Stone and Anderson then discussed economic issues affecting the county, particularly the funding for a sewer project at Cayce Road and Highway 72. The project may play in conjunction with the four-laning of Highway 72 and Mississippi Department of Transportation may be of help finding finances for the sewer project.
In other legislative matters, Anderson said the new budget comes out this month. The governor's budget recommended some Rainy Day Funds and Tobacco Settlement funds will likely be used to help bridge the expected $500 million to $600 million budget hole, he said. Medicaid and mental health were experiencing the worst cuts while education has been holding its funding, he said.
“It will be interesting to see the House and Senate budgets to see how they compare,” he said.
Anderson said rumors are floating that some hospitals will be closing if Medicaid funding is cut, especially some hospitals in the Delta.
In other matters, Harry Willis, fire chief with the Cayce Fire Department, met with supervisors to show the new brush fire fighting truck, purchased with an Assistance to Firefighters grant.
In budget matters, chancery clerk Chuck Thomas advised the board to not pay all claims in December due to low cash on hand. He said new tax collections will be coming in soon and the county could avoid borrowing money to make payroll if cash gets low by holding some payments a short time.
“Above all, we have to protect payroll,” he said.
The board authorized paying claims on a priority basis until tax collections restore the cash balance.
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