WAYNESBORO, Miss. (WDAM) - After facing financial troubles for a few years, the Wayne County School District is now making strides at becoming financially stable.
Trouble began back in 2019 after the district was notified that 16th Section loan payments hadn’t been paid since 2015.
Then, a four-month audit revealed several other violations and other noncompliance issues with state and federal education requirements.
Highlighted in that report was the troubling financial situation facing the school district.
Then in December of last year, after a three-hour hearing, the Mississippi Commission on School Accreditation determined that there was no extreme emergency that existed in the district, which would have allowed the state to come in and take over.
In January, the Wayne County School Board of Education approved a plan that would trim $2 million from the district’s annual expense budget.
The money would come from cuts in administration staff along with several teaching positions that became vacant through attrition.
Today, Wayne County School District Superintendent Tommy Branch says those cuts, along with interest money accrued from 16th section trusts, have allowed them to pay off a $3.5 million Tax Anticipation Note loan.
Another bit of good news came in way of a bill passed by the Mississippi Legislature, which allows them to use interest money from 16th section land revenue to be put into a general fund to be used for programs and projects throughout the district, as long as they remain current on their debt obligations.
“I feel much better now than I did in January,” Branch said. “I will tell you that there’s still things we’re trying to accomplish. We’re going to be very lean going into this new school year, and I feel like we have come a long way since January. We still have a ways to go. We’re not completely at the top of the mountain, right there, but we have climbed over a lot of rocks, I’ll tell you that.”
In the meantime, he wants the students and parents to know the staff are working hard to make the Wayne County School District one of the best school districts in the state.
“We’re clearing up the issues we have,” Branch said. “This is a great district. We have some great kids, great communities. They are so competitive, and we just enjoy being here every day. I don’t want to let them down. I want to get this fixed, and I want them to know they can keep their head held high from Wayne County and things are fine over here, and that’s what we’re working hard every day to make sure that happens.”
While COVID-19 has seen schools across the country adapt in their educational approach, Branch says that hopefully things will ultimately get back on a regular schedule.
The Quitman School District filed the lawsuit in 2011 seeking to recover money it claimed was owed by the Wayne County School District from oil wells located on 16th section school trust land in a township shared by the two districts.