The DeSoto County School District (DCS) expects to operate next year within the same tax structure that it functioned under in the current fiscal year that ends June 30.
The district’s Fiscal Year 2017-18 proposal was presented to the DCS School Board during a budget hearing held Tuesday afternoon in Hernando, ahead of its expected adoption during its June 22 regular school board meeting.
Supt. Cory Uselton was quick to point out in presenting the budget proposal that the district will not be asking for a millage increase as part of its request and re-iterated the statement during his speech Wednesday to the monthly Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
The millage rate which the district will request is 40.35 mills for operations, 3.0 mills on a three-mill note and 10.22 mills for a general operating bond. Those numbers will remain exactly the same from the current fiscal year, Uselton said.
The $310 million budget plan can be considered a “lean and mean” proposal that Uselton said is more centered on students.
“We are able to increase the percentage of the budget that is spent directly in the classroom,” Uselton said. “By decreasing our district-level expenditures, we will be able to hire more teachers and enhance instruction.”
According to the proposal, 73 percent of all operating expenditures are directly related to instruction, up two percent from the current operating year.
In Wednesday’s talk to the Olive Branch business community, Uselton stressed the district is not awash in money, despite being in one of the more affluent areas of Mississippi.
“We are being very efficient with the money that we have,” Uselton said. “We don’t want us to be district office top-heavy. We want to be school top-heavy. We want to be spending as many dollars as we can to schools and being as efficient as we can with all the dollars that are spent so we can pump more money into classroom, where the teachers and the students are.”
Uselton stated that latest figures have DeSoto County Schools ranked 90th out of 140 public school districts in the state for money received per student in property taxes.
“We have cut $1.5 million in salaries from administrative positions since January 2016,” Uselton pointed out. “I believe $1.3 million of that was at the district office.”
The district superintendent also pointed to the DCS participation in an efficiency study that resulted in 16 central office positions either being reclassified, combined or eliminated, amounting to a net annual savings of $487,840.
Of the $310,044,455 budget delivered on Tuesday, more than $156 million will go toward instruction.
More money will head to technology, if approved. Uselton said a significant increase in technology spending is planned, ranging from $600,000 for classroom and lab upgrades, to $1.2 million on school wi-fi and network upgrades.
“This will offer our students greater access to technology in the classroom while also complying with the requirements that we face with online state testing,” Uselton said.
The expected shortfall from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, or MAEP, for the fiscal year ahead will amount to just over $14 million, an increase from this year’s $12.36 million shortfall.
Uselton said he pledges to continue to have the district scrutinize its income and expenses.
“We must do our part to make sure that taxpayer dollars being spent wisely,” he said. “The school board members and I are committed to that cause.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.