School Board Sets Budget

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The Meridian School Board passed a budget Monday that is $2 million larger than last year's. The primary reason for the increase is state mandated teacher pay raises, according to the chief fiscal officer for the district.

"Lately, the state is granting teacher pay raises, but the state revenues are not coming in to fund those teacher pay raises," said Suzanne Smith.

And because that state money isn't coming in, Smith says the taxpayers will have to foot the bill with an ad valorem tax increase of almost two percent to near 55 mills. She says it's getting tougher to make the budget fit the needs of the system.

"I have to think about what raises we grant and what new programs we grant, what new teachers we hire, and also money that may not materialize on the state level. I have to prepare for that on the local level," Smith said.

But even with the problems and the millage increase, Smith says she sees no need for a local tax hike.

"I do not see a local tax increase at all. I do not see that," Smith said.

The board also approved a change from the module system to the semester system, which changes the number of acceptable student absences to 10 per semester and 20 per school year.

Meridian public schools will receive a $400,000 federal grant to improve elementary and secondary school counseling programs.

This is part of $20 million granted by the U.S. Department of Education to 60 school districts in 26 states.

The money will be used to hire and train social workers, school counselors, psychologists, and adolescent psychologists.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.