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August 8, 2018 10:59:48 AM
A property value boom in Oktibbeha County will help Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District absorb an increase in projected expenditures this year without having to raise the property tax millage.
At a glance, the district's budget depicts more than $81.3 million in expected expenditures, which exceeds the $56.4 million expected revenue from local, state and federal funds.
District Chief Financial Officer Tammie McGarr said the expenditures include the current construction of the upcoming SOCSD and Mississippi State University Partnership School. The $23.1 million amount allotted to facilities and construction within the budget would be funded by the construction funds SOCSD budgeted previously. McGarr said SOCSD budgeted a similar amount last year, $22.5 million, for construction and spent approximately $4 million on the Partnership School. She said the budget, although strange, is normal considering the construction projects occurring at SOCSD.
"We may not spend all of that this year, but because it's in our construction funds, we go ahead and budget it," McGarr said. "Because I don't know exactly how much is going to be done on the Partnership School this year, so I just went ahead and budgeted everything."
State law gives districts until Aug. 15 to approve their budgets each year. The SOCSD board is expected to OK the district budget in its Aug. 14 meeting.
SOCSD relies heavily on local sources, requesting $25.6 million, or 55 mills, an increase from last year's request of $23.8 million.
The operational budget for SOCSD expects to see an increase of nearly $1.5 million for FY 2019. However, McGarr said SOCSD does not project a tax increase to pay for higher expenses. The millage value increased approximately 7 percent from last year because of increased property values, McGarr said.
"We had a reappraisal process this year, so that accounts for the majority of the reason that the mill value went up," McGarr said. "We had a lot of new property added to the tax roll. That also increases the millage value. When the millage value increases, that means that for the same amount of taxes that are levied, we do get an increase."
SOCSD projects 33.7 percent of its expenditures focused on instruction at $27.4 million. Support services, at $20.1 million, holds 24.79 percent of the budget, with non-instructional services ($5.9 million), 16th Section land ($68,850) and debt services ($4.4 million) comprising the remaining expected expenses.
As in previous years, salaries remain the largest expenditure for the district at $36.6 million, which is unchanged from last year.
The district's reserve funds total a projected $10 million, which is 23.06 percent of the district's maintenance fund. McGarr said she prefers to hold at least 15 percent in the fund balance, while the state suggests maintaining at least 7.5 percent in case of unexpected finances which were not budgeted.
State budget cuts
The district anticipates an approximate $300,000 financial cut this year from state funding by the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), which funds approximately 43.08 percent of the SOCSD budget.
McGarr said reason for the state budget cuts heavily relies on the student's average daily attendance (ADA).
Assistant Superintendent David Baggett said, on average, SOCSD loses $20 per student with an absence. Last year, SOCSD started a campaign to combat students' absences within the district, including recognition for students with high attendance. Superintendent Eddie Peasant said although the strides SOCSD took last year to increase attendance did not have a positive result, he said he believes SOCSD has started an awareness for consistent student attendance in school.
"As far as this year, we will have another attendance campaign this year to stress the importance of attendance," Peasant said. "It's important because students need to be at school to learn, but also it affects us financially. We will be promoting that again."
Peasant said he was happy with this year's budget and was thankful SOCSD did not have to cut funding since the millage value increased.
"We're pleased that we were able to have level funding in all of our academic programs and extra curricular programs," Peasant said. "Early on, we thought we might have to have some decreases in some of those areas. But after we got the information of the increase of our Ad Valorem, and we are excited that we are able to have level funding across the board."
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