School funding future unclear

By Colleen Donovan - bio | email | Twitter

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - State Senator from Lamar County Joey Fillingane says this years battle over the state budget is unusual.

"This is the worst budget situation that I've seen in the ten years that I've been in the legislature."

The 2009 regular session ended Wednesday at midnight with no agreement made on the state's five billion dollar budget. Lawmakers left the capitol with the exception of House and Senate negotiators who are working on a solution.

According to Senator Fillingane there is a particular issue responsible for the stalemate.

"I think the main difference between the house and the senate is how much of the state's savings account known as a working cash stabilization fund we are going to use this year," said Fillingane. "We have about 380 million dollars in the state's savings account."

In the meantime, Mississippi Superintendent's like Dr. Ben Burnett with the Lamar County School District are left in a jam trying to work out their budget without knowing just how much money they'll receive from the state.

"We have three different possible scenarios for our budget that the state department sent us, a House and Senate version and then the governor's proposal," said Burnett. "We've kind of used the worst case scenario that we were given to do our preliminary budget. But with no official budget it could come back worse than what they initially told us."

Dr. Burnett said the fact the state does not have a set budget yet is putting a lot of the school district's plans on hold, especially when it comes to hiring new teachers.

Contracts for current Lamar County school district teachers have all been renewed. However, the district grew by 400 students last year.

"You know if we are going to add teacher units to accommodate our growth for next year we feel like everyday we are not able to do that," said Burnett. "We are losing good candidates that are out there that could be taking on of those positions for next year."

Burnett said by law the school district needs to have their budget set by the end of June and presented to the public during a hearing.

He said the district is looking to see if that has to be done by July 1 because they won't know what the exact numbers are going to be until the legislature reaches a budget agreement.

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