Education Budget Proposals

With less than a week left in Mississippi's legislative session, there are now two new proposals on how to handle the state's projected education budget shortfall.

Both backed by Gov. Barbour, the first was for school districts to dip into their "rainy day funds" and the second would fund districts with 95 percent of the $1.7 million budget requested. As for the first proposal, local officials say this just will not work.

"What the governor is calling our rainy day fund is what our fund balance was at a time last year toward the budget year. That's already gone back into the budget," Superintendent David Little, Lauderdale County Schools.

"It's kind of like your personal account," says Deputy Superintendent Robert Markham with Meridian Public Schools. "You can't spend everything in your account because you might have a leaking roof or you might have a car accident or just any emergency."

As for the second proposal, that's the one that Gov. Barbour is now officially endorsing. He says it would keep school districts from dipping into reserves and leave them with a fiver percent shortfall, something which school officials say will help them to survive, but barely.

"Sure, if they fund us at 95 percent we'll have to increase taxes. I feel pretty sure that's what the board and I will come up with and probably wind up doing," says Superintendent Little.

For property owners in Lauderdale County that tax increase could be as much as seven percent. However, as for Meridian Public schools, officials tell us they are already at their cap and therefore adjustments would have to be made elsewhere.