Schools set for budget hearing on June 28

by Sean Dunlap

The Franklin County School District will host a public hearing on its proposed Fiscal Year 2023 revenue and spending plans at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 28 in the Offices of the Superintendent of Education on First Street in Meadville.

FCSD Business Manager Tremel Young briefed the five-member board of education on preliminary budget numbers during the group’s previous regular meeting held on Tuesday, May 17.

In her summary, Young said early numbers showed the FY 2023 budget would include projected revenues totaling $16,429,226.03 — with $3,124,270 (19.02 percent) of that generated through Franklin County’s ad valorem tax levy.

“While these calculations are from fairly early in the process of developing the budget, we are not asking for anything more than we sought last year from the Board of Supervisors,” Young noted.

During Fiscal Year 2022 (which schools are presently operating under), the FCSD’s budget revenues were estimated at $14,534,149.59 with the local ad valorem request being exactly the same — $3,124,270.

This amount made up about 21.49 percent of the district’s revenue stream during the current budget cycle.

In a year-over-year total budget comparison, the local ad valorem contribution toward overall school district income will be 2.47 percent less for FY 2023.

Ad valorem taxes are paid to the county on such items as homes and property, automobile license plates as well as business fixtures and equipment.

Young went on to say the FCSD Maintenance Fund’s forecasted revenue in the new budget cycle would likely decline by $68,259.

FY 23’s total collection projection for District Maintenance is $11,128,988 when compared to the current budget year’s $11,197,247.

However, she noted local schools were anticipating additional dollars from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program during the upcoming budget year — estimated in the neighborhood of $88,815.

Other line item revenue streams projected to show an increase for FY 23 include student tuition and Junior ROTC, while bank interest, homestead exemption reimbursement and National Forest income is likely to drop when compared with the previous budget year.

In terms of expenses, the district’s instructional spending is forecast to see upwards of $428,379 in additional personnel costs connected with state-mandated raises that were authorized earlier this calendar year.

Additional outlay connected with the state’s pay raises include a hike in student services costs of $22,350 and school administrative costs climbing $174,012 (which includes the raises and adding an assistant principal position at Franklin County Middle School).

Young also noted the district will be looking at the potential for higher costs when it comes to a laundry list of recurring expenses such as employee benefits, operation and maintenance of school buildings, utilities, transportation fuel and property insurance coverage.

In terms of cash on hand, the district was anticipated to have $2,781,655.52 as of the end of FY 22 on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

For the end of the new fiscal year on Friday, June 30, 2023, that cash-on-hand amount is expected to total $1,819,042.53.

Superintendent of Education Chris Kent wrapped up the preliminary budget discussions with some considerations for the board where compensation was concerned.

“The (Mississippi) Legislature was nice enough in helping our certified staff and our assistants,” Kent said of this year’s pay raise authorization.

“(The amount) fluctuates based on experience and years, but some of our people will be getting a very nice raise next year with (all certified staff and assistants) getting something.

“We felt like from where we sit now — with some extra funds on hand, which we are very much working to protect — it is time to look at those that were not part of the legislative raise.”

Kent said he sees an immediate need to increase compensation for bus drivers as it is growing more difficult to attract those with the required credentials to transport children to and from school daily.

“After the state took care of certified personnel and teaching assistants, our focus locally immediately turned to the drivers as well as custodians, cafeteria workers and secretaries,” Kent continued.

“Under the FY 23 budget we’re looking at, we would want to seek additional funds for these important staffers. Also, there are around five personnel who hold higher-paid positions within the district that would also be eligible for an increase in salary.”

Kent said nothing has been approved by the board, but the compensation discussion was just that — an effort to get the panel to talk and think about how they could best help those in the district that are deserving of increased compensation.

“If anyone has a problem with what we’re proposing, please let us know beforehand,” he continued.

“The desire is to give everyone a little something in the coming year. I think it is time, and, financially, we can do it.

“Again, we applaud the Legislature for its action, but it comes down to taking care of the rest of our people, too. If the board approves the budget that will be discussed on June 28, these things would happen.”