HPSD will finish fiscal year with money in budget, sets date for budget hearing

HPSD will finish fiscal year with money in budget, sets date for budget hearing

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg Public School District is projected to finish this fiscal year with money in its general fund, and has a date to decide on its future funding.

"Oh yes. Yes, yes we're very excited that we are showing a positive cash balance," said Greg Ladner, interim superintendent for the district.

Sheryle Coaker, interim chief financial officer for Hattiesburg Public Schools, said at school board meeting Tuesday that she projects the district will finish the year with $451,000 in its general fund, avoiding both a deficit and a takeover by the Mississippi Department of Education.

"So I can breathe?" asked Marcus Cathey, HPSD Board of Trustees President.

"Breathe," Coaker said. "But don't take big breaths."

While staying in the black until June 30 is the immediate goal, the district is already working on next year's budget.

"We are working very, very diligently on next year's budget," Ladner said. "It really looks good right now. It appears that we are building a budget that is going to put us in a position to start regenerating our fund balance, which has been so depleted."

The school board will hold a budget hearing on Friday, June 17, at 11 a.m. to make official decisions about how to fund the district for the next fiscal year.

Ladner said in April he would present the board with financial options, but would not give recommendations about how the district should move forward.

"We almost are at a point where there are no options to even recommend," Ladner said. "I mean, we are going to have to have a TAN (tax anticipation note). It just appears that we are going to need a smaller one because of the cuts that were made throughout the year, believe it or not. I mean, it is going to have a very positive affect on this district in the next couple of years."

Coaker said tax anticipation notes are common in many school districts, but HPSD's management of its TANs has caused problems. She said HPSD continues to borrow more money than it actually receives in tax dollars, which means the district is using its general fund to pay the difference.

"We're looking at a number around $5 million, and then, most certainly, what we're trying to set for the future is that maybe the next year, maybe $2 million or $3 million or even less, " Ladner said. "Understanding that a lot of school districts across the state do the TAN all the time, but we were doing just such a very large amount. If you do not borrow as much, you don't have to pay as much back, and then, of course, you're paying interest on a smaller amount as well."