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TUPELO • The Lee County School District is proposing a nearly $85 million budget for the 2021-22 school year.

LCSD business manager Michael Martin presented the budget during a public hearing at the district's office on Thursday afternoon.

The Lee County School Board will vote on whether to adopt the budget at its next board meeting on August 12.

The district's Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) allocation for 2021-22 is $32,935,216. That is $393,481 less than the allocation last year and doesn't include the $848,572 of state revenue that the district will receive to pay for teacher and teacher assistant pay raises and related employee benefits, Martin said.

But MAEP funding is better than it could've been. Because of a "hold harmless" provision, the state calculated MAEP funding based on 2019-20 average daily attendance rather than last year's because of the pandemic. Lee County's MAEP funding would've been $1,120,774 less if not for that provision.

Over the previous 14 years, LCSD's MAEP allocation has been underfunded by a total of about $45.5 million, and this year's budgeted amount is $3.9 million less than what they full funding amount would be.

LCSD's operational revenues for the 2021-22 school year totals $77,950,089. That total includes revenue from taxes, other local sources, state sources, federal sources and other sources like transfers and loans.

$13.4 million comes from federal sources, bolstered by Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief and other COVID-19 relief funding. The district has purchased student Chromebooks and teacher laptops, improved wireless connectivity throughout the district, funded its 2021 summer school program, purchased cleaning supplies for campuses and hired an Instructional Technology Coach.

Current and upcoming expenditures include upgrading HVAC systems, repairing and replacing windows to improve air circulation, carpet replacement for sanitation purposes and funding for 2022, 2023 and 2024 summer school programs, among other things.

The district spent $120,000 on cleaning costs, outside of federal COVID relief funds, last year. Another $100,000 for cleaning costs is built into the budget this year, but Martin expects cleaning costs to decrease as a result of evolving safety protocols focused more on air quality and ventilation than surface cleaning.

Expenditures for the 2021-22 school year total $84,939,553 — the vast majority of which is $51,491,629 for salaries and benefits. Other expenditures includes professional services, purchased services, supplies, construction/equipment and debt/transfers.

Total expenditures exceed revenues by $7 million, but around $6.6 million of that amount is bond funds received during the previous fiscal year that have not been expended. Most of the $6.6 million is already committed to the new Lee County CTE center, safety improvements and other infrastructure improvements across the district.

In summing up the budget, Martin said although ad valorem tax revenue will not grow as it has over the last several years due to factory inventories being down as a result of the pandemic and the state continuing to underfund MAEP, LCSD will continue to maintain a strong fund balance.

LCSD also has the 13th-lowest administrative cost percentage in the state, according to the latest report from the Mississippi Department of Education.

"Because of the efforts of the school board and administration, we are able to keep administrative costs low and operate within our means," Martin said.

Superintendent Coke Magee said he appreciates the work of Martin and the entire business department.

"(They) do a great job of keeping me informed of how I can best provide the resources that we need to make sure that we see the results in the classroom and in what we're able to provide in terms of education to our students," Magee said.

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