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TUPELO • Lee County School District is proposing a $79 million budget for the 2020-21 school year.

The proposed budget was presented by LCSD’s business manager Michael Martin during a public hearing at the district office on Thursday afternoon.

The Lee County School Board will vote on whether to adopt the budget at its next board meeting on Aug. 13.

Establishing a budget has been particularly difficult this year due to uncertainties and pending allocations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mississippi Department of Education typically informs school districts of their Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) allocation no later than May 15, but due to the pandemic and Gov. Tate Reeves’ recent veto of the education funding bill, LCSD still doesn’t know what its allocation will be.

However, the vetoed bill as it was sent to the governor included a statewide cut of 1.62% to MAEP from fiscal year 2019-2020, which was already about 10% underfunded.

And due to a decrease in LCSD’s Average Daily Attendance, its decrease in MAEP funds will be even more than that.

Martin prepared the budget with an estimated MAEP allocation of $32,927,749 for the 2020-21 school year, which is $1,662,511 less than the budget for the previous year.

In the previous 12 years, LCSD’s MAEP allocation has been underfunded by a total of about $38 million, and this year’s budgeted amount is over $4 million less than what the full funding amount would be.

LCSD’s operational revenues for the 2020-21 school year totals $71,688,538 – including local revenue from taxes, local revenue from other sources, state sources, federal sources and other sources.

The district was able to save money on expenditures during the spring semester due to school buildings being closed from mid-March through the end of the semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, spending on fuel for buses was down $143,000 and spending on substitute teachers was down $152,000 from the previous year. The district also saved money on utility and travel costs.

Last year, LCSD budgeted the purchase of three school buses from district funds in addition to several that are purchased each year from three mill note funds. For the 2020-21 school year, no buses have been budgeted for purchase with district funds, which will save $270,000.

Martin said he expects the cost of additional school cleaning related to COVID-19 to exceed the amount of federal funds available for those items, and budgeted an additional $100,000 of cleaning costs to be paid from district funds as a result. However, he stressed that it’s impossible to predict the actual amount due to uncertainties as the school year begins.

Total expenditures for the district are up by $6.2 million from last year primarily due to the cost of the Lee County Career & Technical Education Center.

The district’s operational expenditures will total $79,822,316 – including instructional, non-instructional, support services and facilities/debt/other expenditures.

Coke Magee, who took on the role of LCSD Superintendent in Nov. 2019, said the district’s budget is in good shape for the 2020-21 school year.

“I feel grateful that I was able to step into a budget that Dr. Jimmy Weeks, Mr. Michael Martin and the Board have crafted over the last several years that provides us a base of operations and a fund balance that’s able to withstand the uncertainties of the upcoming school year,” Magee said.

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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