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Columbus Schools Budget Shows No Tax Increase

Posted by Steve Rogers | July 13, 2012 / 05:28pm | Local News, Political, Business, Education
From Columbus Municipal Schools

COLUMBUS, Miss. -- After three years of financial struggles, dipping into reserves and a tax increase last year, Columbus city schools may have their financial ship headed in the right direction.

A new spending plan to be reviewed Saturday by the school board does not require a property tax increase, starts rebuilding the district's reserves and sets aside resources in case state funding is reduced during the school year.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell called the budget a "major accomplishment for students, parents, teachers and taxpayers," and credited everyone from teaching assistants and principals to parents and local business leaders for their help in finding ways to cut almost $3 million in spending while providing much-needed services for students, classrooms and teachers.

"This means teachers can concentrate on teaching without fear of losing their job for budget reasons. Columbus schools must focus more heavily on raising student achievement to meet more rigorous rating standards and new common core state tests in 2014. This budget does that and provides some additional tools and resources to insure the emphasis stays on learning and achievement," Liddell said.

"Our school board and administrators realize the dual impact schools have on almost every phase of our lives, from recruiting new jobs and industries to preparing the next generation to lead our communities. This budget recognizes we must do our part to keep tax rates as low as possible while still investing in education and children," added Liddell.

A public hearing on the budget is set for 8 a.m. at the school district offices in McArthur Drive in Columbus.

Among other things, the budget includes a new professional development coordinator and curriculum coordinators. Pre-K programs also will be offered at all elementary schools and professional learning communities will be established for teachers and administrators.

The district also will continue to fund assistant teachers in kindergarten and first grade and grant funds are being used to start an "iPads in Education" program at Columbus High School

"The Pre-K and teacher assistant programs are critical to make sure our youngest students get off on the right foot. If we make sure that happens, the rest of their school career will be that much more productive. Our test scores have shown the value of early education and intervention. We are convinced it's critical to the district's long-term growth and success," Liddell said.

Other budget highlights include:

-- $40,484,567 total budget, down from $42,230,915 in the current year

-- $12,858,482 in local tax revenues, down from $13,046,187 in current year

-- $750,000 added to reserves, from $2.2 million to $2.95 million

-- $450,000 set aside in case of state funding budget cuts

-- Rehired 50 of 69 teachers given 'reduction-in-force' notices earlier this year

-- Maintained pupil-teacher ratios at 25-1 below state guidelines on par with other districts in the area

-- Inflation, teacher step raises, reductions in some state and federal funding, and increased insurance and retirement costs included

-- Reductions made during the current year in administrative costs, athletic and related supplements remain

"We will continue to cut out unnecessary spending and focus our resources on teachers and children. As the economy rebounds and Columbus grows, we hope our local revenues will grow and we can possibly lower our millage requirements while focusing on our core mission," Liddell concluded.
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