Supervisors, school officials discuss shortfall

By Russell Hood

The Webster Progress-Times

 

Supervisors and local school leaders met Friday to discuss possible ways to eliminate future revenue shortfalls in the Webster County School District.

The county school system has reported a projected shortfall of $165,629 for its fiscal year that ended June 30. The Board of Supervisors will have to cover the shortfall in the county’s next budget, which they planned to finalize today

Meeting with supervisors about the matter during a recessed meeting of the county board on Friday were Superintendent of Education Jack Treloar; WCSD Business Manager Heidi Young; School Board members Nancy Davis, Scott Hollenhead, Keith Hudspeth and Bobby McMullen; Tax Assessor-Collector Barbara Gore and Robert Holt of Data Systems Management, who developed the bookkeeping system for the tax assessor’s office.

Treloar and Young also met with supervisors on Aug. 5, and Gore met with them during a recessed meeting on Aug. 7. She presented figures regarding the school budget and assisted the board in preparations for Friday’s discussions.

“We asked for a dollar figure that has to come in in our fiscal year or we have to declare a shortfall,” Hudspeth told supervisors Friday.

He also said he wanted both boards to be on the same page and pulling in the same direction. Pat Cummings, president of the Board of Supervisors, said, “We need to get some common ground and figure out what to do for next year.”

One possible contributing factor given for the shortfall included the three-month difference between the entities’ fiscal years. In Mississippi, school district fiscal years run from July 1-June 30 while county budget years begin Oct. 1 and end Sept. 30.

“It’s a cash-flow problem: collecting nine months to pay 12,” Hollenhead said.

Holt said some counties have their annual sale of delinquent taxes (land sale) in April instead of August, which was touted as a possible solution to the shortfall problem. However, difficulty in implementing such a change was cited by some as a disadvantage.

After Holt and Young discussed the method by which she calculates the school district’s local funding request each year, Holt recommended a change in the process to provide a more accurate estimate.

Hudspeth said most other counties have higher school millage but worse schools, adding that only 18 percent of the school system’s 2012-13 budget was supported by local money. He pointed out that 127 of the state’s 152 school districts receive more local funding support than Webster County’s.

“We want you to realize how tight we’re trying to be,” he told supervisors. “We’ve already cut back … extremely deep.”

The boards agreed to work toward more accurate funding request estimates and to continue supporting each other. Hudspeth thanked supervisors for their help over the years.

Supervisor Doug Burgess (District 5) was unable to attend Friday’s meeting.

Staff Writer Daniel Brunty contributed to this report.