By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times
Superintendent of Education Jack Treloar presented a “State of the School” address to the Eupora Rotary Club on April 15.
“I’m very, very proud of our schools,” he said, pointing out that the Webster County School District has an a “A” accountability level rating and is ranked 17th in the state out of the 151 school districts. “We are so blessed to have what we have in Webster County.”
However, Treloar said the district has experienced some cutbacks, and in the previous week cut seven teaching positions countywide for the next school year, which he said was a tough decision. This includes three assistant teachers.
“We’re in the process of realigning,” he said. “We have to be fiscally responsible.”
The School Board, on April 14, approved the transfer of $500,000 from the $1.5 million 16th Section Fund into the maintenance account to cover a shortfall, according to the superintendent. Treloar released this prepared statement to the Progress-Times about the budget cuts:
“Webster County school administrators and department heads have spent the past several months identifying ways to cut $500,000 from maintenance and personnel costs; an unsustainable long-term cost compared to overall revenue generated from local, state and federal government.
“Higher costs means less money for building repairs, purchasing buses, books, supplies and maintenance. We have been able to keep our school district at a higher level than most in the state. WCSD is ranked 17th out of 151 school districts in Mississippi. Our school district contributes heavily to the quality of life in our county and that encourages people to visit, live and raise their family in Webster County. With our schools being ranked 17th in the state, this should have a positive impact on attracting business and industry into the county.
“Over the past several years we have adjusted our finances to make ends meet. In the last 10 years we have faced cutbacks from the reduction of legislative funding and the underfunding of Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the elimination of the ad valorem reduction tax, (and) rising cost of fuel and insurance.
“Webster County Schools remains financially solid, but we cannot stay on the spending path that we are on and remain financially solvent. The largest part of our budget is salaries, and that is where we expect to cut the bulk of the $500,000. We are not like many of the school districts that are overstaffed, so we must use caution as to where we cut to avoid hurting our district academically.”
Additionally, Treloar told the Rotary Club that the district has a rainy day fund of 7 percent that is required by law and is approximately $700,000.
Referring to the three years that have elapsed since a tornado hit the East Webster High School campus on April 27, 2011, Treloar said all of the work that has been done there since has been and will be paid for out of insurance and Federal and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency funds. The district also received a $500,000 allocation from the state to repay its 12.5 percent share of financial assistance received from FEMA.
“We’ve been able to build back East Webster High School at no cost to the district or county. … “Not one penny of district money has gone to build that school,” he told club members.”
Treloar said the district used a line of credit established through a 3-mill limited tax note to cover cash flow during construction of East Webster’s new high school until the district received reimbursement funds from FEMA, MEMA and insurance.
Because less maintenance money should be needed at the new school, Treloar said the district should be able to divert maintenance funds to other places that have needs.
Concerning the March 22 accidental fire at Eupora High School, Treloar reported that the district’s insurance company is providing an initial $1 million for recovery purposes. The fire primarily damaged the break room area and school offices, and caused smoke damage elsewhere.
“The insurance people have been wonderful to work with,” he said.
Grades 6-9 were moved to the old high school (Central Office Building), the PE/multipurpose building and the annex. Treloar said students moved back into the ninth-grade hall the previous week following cleanup work by ServiceMaster, and that he hopes all classes and offices will be back in the building by Christmas.