Columbus Municipal School District does not plan to ask for a property tax increase next fiscal year.
Instead, CMSD business administrator Tammie Holmes told the board of trustees at a public hearing on Thursday a pair of cost-cutting measures should create adequate savings to balance the district’s budget for the 2017-18 budget year, which begins July 1.
Specifically, Holmes said the district plans to defer roughly $507,000 in debt by refinancing a 2009 construction bond. CMSD has also cut 32 paraprofessional positions, she said, which will save the district about $1.1 million next year.
Holmes delivered the news during a public hearing at Brandon Central Services that included the district’s FY 2018 budget proposal.
“We’ve got a significant deficit that we had to face to try to get our budget to balance and be in a favorable position,” Holmes said. “With that came some drastic measures that we had to take, and one of those was closing of vacancies and actual cutting of positions to accommodate the shortages that we will see from federal revenues and from the state department.”
Holmes said through refinancing the construction bond for Columbus Middle School, the district is opting to delay the principal payment and obtain a lower interest rate that could save the district an additional $300,000 over the next five years.
According to Holmes, CMSD expects to spend about $41.2 million in FY 2018, about $3 million less than FY 2017 expenditures.
For FY 2017, the district had to dip into savings to cover its increased budget. It pulled $1.2 million from a $4.25 million savings pool, according to board of trustees president Jason Spears. This came after the district proposed a 6.1-mill tax increase that garnered extensive public criticism and did not come to fruition.
Bond refinancing and position cuts would allow the district to avoid pulling from a now roughly $3 million reserve savings fund or asking for a tax millage increase.
“I feel comfortable with (the current budget plan),” Spears said. “Certainly we need to continue working at the board level to get the refunding option done and continue to work with our counsel to get more favorable interest terms.”
He said the district will continue to try to minimize operational costs without under-serving students’ education.
The district’s projected revenue to cover most of its expenditures for the coming fiscal year is roughly $40.8 million, $1.7 million less than the district’s 2017 revenue. Holmes said another decrease in Mississippi Adequate Education Program allocations by $1 million accounts for most of that difference, as well as a major reduction in federal revenue.
District costs are divided into four main categories: instructional services, which include gifted and special education programs, technology upgrades, alternative and vocational education and school operations; support services, including administration, teachers, janitorial staff and transportation; non-instructional services, primarily food services; and debt services, including bond and tax-levied debt.
To cover the excess expenditure for FY 2018, Holmes said CMSD will use money leftover from certain 2017 funds, such as last year’s federal Title I grant allocations.