AUTHOR: EILEEN

TUPELO SCHOOL BUDGET RELIES ON MILLAGE HIKE

By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

The state's 11th largest school district unveiled its $43 million budget for 1996-97, including a 3.6 percentage increase in school tax millage, to 11 residents at a public hearing Monday night.

If approved, the millage increase presented Monday would be the second the district has experienced in two years. The increase would bring the district's millage rate to 56.47 mills. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.

From 1990 to 1993 the millage remained the same at 54.35 mills. It decreased the next year before experiencing an increase of 2.1 percent last year.

This year's budget of about $43 million is up about $3 million from last year's budget.

The district will ask for a total budget increase of 4 percent in operational dollars allowed by law without a referendum. This increase will reflect a 3.6 percent increase in school tax millage or a 1.7 percent increase in overall millage, which includes city taxes and county taxes, said Scott Dutt, director of finance for the district.

According to Dutt, the 4 percent increase would produce about $480,000, which would mainly be used to cover renovation and construction costs at Milam Intermediate School. The 3.6 percent increase would produce about $1.7 million to help cover expenses for pay increases and other projects, such as the purchase of six new buses, initial Joyner renovations, Basil readers for kindergarten and first-grade students, roofing projects and Tupelo High School Band uniforms.

Superintendent Dr. Mike Vinson said the increases are needed to make capital improvements in the district. The district's philosophy is to try to "do maintenance and repairs to buildings on a cash basis as much as we can," he said.

"We don't want to get into long-term financing on projects, such as the reroofing of schools," Vinson said. "We feel that it is good business practice to save the district money in the debt services area. We are working to get our debt services down."

This year's proposed increase would mean that on a $100,000 home an owner is projected to have an annual tax increase of about $21 or $1.75 per month, Dutt said.

Those in attendance, including four Tupelo City councilmen, were given handouts with information about the district's budget. Included in the information was a breakdown of the district's revenues and expenditures.

The district's revenue is broken down into 41 percent from local sources, 43 percent from state sources, 7 percent from federal sources, 8 percent from short-term notes and leases; and 1 percent from other sources.

Expenditures for the upcoming school year will be broken down into about 57.8 percent for instruction; 18.5 percent for support services; 4.4 percent for non-instructional services; 10.7 percent for facilities improvements and construction; 7.2 percent for principal interest and debt; and 1.4 percent for other expenditures.

The support services category includes principal salaries, guidance counselors, media center and transportation. Non-instruction includes such areas as food services.

The board will vote on the budget July 15, which is the last day the district can approve its budget for the 1996-97 school year.

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