The Columbus Municipal School District presented its FY2012-13 budget at a public hearing held at 8 a.m. Saturday morning.
Columbus City Councilmen Bill Gavin, Gene Taylor and Charlie Box attended, but no members of the public were present.
The FY13 budget includes $39,535,356 in expenditures, a decrease of $3.6 million from last year, and $40,484,567 in revenues, a decrease of $1.7 million from last year. The budget included about $3 million in personnel cuts.
Business Manager Ken Hughes said that he does not expect a millage increase. [The school district does not set the millage levy. They request a dollar amount. The value of a mill is calculated by Tax Assessor Greg Andrews, and the millage rate itself is set by the city of Columbus. – Brian Jones]
The district’s revenues, by area, are:
• Local sources: $13,710,582, a decrease of $290,342. Around $12.8 million of local revenues come from ad valorem taxes.
• State sources: $20,070,544, an increase of $301,390. About $18 million is from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. “The increase is primarily due to the state funding the additional cost of retirement. The employer contribution went up about 1.5 percent this year.”
• Federal sources: $6,703,442, a decrease of $1.7 million. “We took significant cuts in all areas,” Hughes said. “The [stimulus] funds have also gone away.”
• Sixteenth Section: $9,500, which is unchanged.
The largest area of expenditure is the instructional budget, which totals $19,4114,768, a decrease of $3 million.
The instructional budget is broken up into these areas:
• Elementary: $8,323,611. This includes pre-kindergarten at five schools and the magnet school concept. Elementary schools serve 2,410 students and support 120 certified staff and 43 paraprofessionals.
• Middle: $2,644,848. This serves about 965 students in grades six through eight and supports 45 certified staff and three paraprofessionals.
• High: $3,536,877. Columbus High School serves 1,175 students and supports 52 certified staff. CHS offers 120 Carnegie Units, as well as the International Baccalaureate program.
• Gifted education: $317,780. Gifted education serves 200 students in grades five through eight. It supports five certified staff, and is required by the state.
• Special education: $3,252,873. SPED services are offered in all buildings, and support 60 certified staff and 24 paraprofessionals.
• Alternative education: $295,745. Alternative education serves 85 students and involves six certified staff.
• Vocational: $1,043,034. Ten career education programs are offered at McKellar Technology Center. Seventeen certified staff serve 400 students.
Non-instructional expenditures include:
• Support services: $13,549,787. This area includes student support services, instructional staff, general administration, school administration, business operations, transportation, central support and operation and maintenance of plant.
• Non-instructional services: $2,349,751. Most of this money goes toward food service.
• Debt service: $4,221,050, of which $3,297,776 is principal and $908,274 is interest and $15,000 is fees. Debt service includes payment on general obligation bonds covering construction at Columbus High School and Columbus Middle School; three-mill notes for Stokes-Beard construction; 2010 and 2011 shortfall notes; CHS renovations in 2008; additions to Cook, Sale and Stokes-Beard; and a Mississippi Development Authority loan to retrofit lighting.
Hughes said the district’s total millage is 65.87 mills. The operational millage is 52.77, and debt service millage is 13.10.
When Hughes opened the floor for questions, Gavin questioned the district’s operational millage.
“The operational millage is 52,” Gavin said. “The state average is 43. Why is yours so much higher?”
“I have no answer for that,” Hughes said.
“I think you should be congratulated for cutting $3 million in personnel out of your budget,” Gavin said. “Your major function is to educate, but you also have an obligation to the citizens about their tax dollars. With the millage rate so out of line with the others in the state, something is out of kilter. It’s your responsibility to look at these things and bring things back to the black. I’m not sure the city can take much more of these tax increases.”
“I can assure you we have done that this year and we will continue to do that,” said Superintendent Martha Liddell. “We are not doing unnecessary things. We are looking every day at how we can get to be one of the most cost-efficient districts in the state.”