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Teacher layoffs possible for Pine Belt school district

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HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

School districts have been operating on shrinking budgets for the last several years. As the 2013 Mississippi legislative session came to an end, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program was once again left under funded, leaving local school districts scraping for funds.

"We have a budget committee of districts, internal budget committee, where we put everything on the table. We are looking to see how we can do it differently and also maintain the same services that we have," explained Dr. James Bacchus, superintendent of the Hattiesburg Public School District.

Budget shortfalls for the 2012-2013 school year forced the Hattiesburg Public School District to pull from their rainy day fund

"We funded our budget with $1.5 million from our rainy day fund, our fund balance as we call it. And as we all know, that is not a practice that we can continue," said Dr. Bacchus.

While the exact budget shortfalls for the 2013-2014 school year are unknown at this time, the district is already exploring further cost saving measures. One such measure would mean layoffs for upwards of 30 out of the 350 teachers the district currently employs.

"It is due to our cost savings, but it is really about right sizing. Having the teachers that we need, based on the teacher student ratio," explained Dr. Bacchus.

If the measure is enacted, class sizes are expected to increase slightly. April 15th is the deadline for layoff notices for the 2013-2014 school year. Superintendent Bacchus says that any cuts that are made would not impact the performance of the district.

"Don't think it will. We are very careful that we are not impacting what we are doing. Everything that we are doing we are able to continue to do. So we do not feel that we will be impacted to that level this year. But next year, as I have said before, any additional cutting would certainly cause us some severe impacts," said Dr. Bacchus.

Lamar County Superintendent Ben Burnett says he will recommend all teacher contracts be approved at the April 15th school board meeting.  With 1,300 district employees, Burnett says any staff reductions can be made through attrition.