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Despite ad valorem tax rate changes, ‘No new taxes’ in local school districts
By Geoff Belcher
Jun 21, 2013, 18:43

Both the Hancock County and Bay-Waveland school districts plan to host public hearings next week on proposed increases in ad valorem tax rates, but administrators from both districts say they don't believe that will translate to an actual tax increase.
"We do not plan, at all, to increase taxes," Lynel Necaise, BWSD business manager, said this week. "That is not on the radar."
"We don't see an increase coming." Hancock Schools Superintendent Alan Dedeaux said Friday. "As a matter of fact ... it looks like the state's going to be collecting more money than they thought, and we're hoping that K-12 education could benefit."
For the 2012-2013 school year, the BWSD operated with total projected budget revenue of $26,713,931. Of that, $233,000 – or 30.2 percent – was obtained through ad valorem taxes paid on homes, car tags, business equipment and rental properties.
The Bay St. Louis – Waveland district's projected 2013-2014 budget revenue for 2013-2014 is $22,677,953, a decrease of more than $4 million from last year's total, Necaise said: "The reduction is due in part to the completion of renovations and upgraded projects. "
In other words, Necaise said, the district will be spending less overall, but due to unfunded state-mandates, will be forced to get more of its funding from local sources.
"For the upcoming school year, the Bay St Louis - Waveland School District faces many challenges with the rising cost of existing programs and statewide mandates while being underfunded on the state level by $1,147,690," Necaise said. "Local funding will be required to meet state-mandated increases in state retirement and increases to teacher pay based on the state-mandated annual increment plan, as well as meeting state regulations with class sizes and curriculum requirements.
"The proposed budget will enable the district to continue the services of nurses in all schools and hire new teachers. If full funding would become available, the district would evaluate the need to reinstate prior cut programs and positions."
The Hancock School District had a total budget revenue of $56,529,647 for the past school year. Of that amount, records show, 23.17 percent – or $13,099,881 – was obtained through ad valorem taxes. For the 2013-14 fiscal year, the proposed budget has total projected revenue of $49,616,228. Of that amount, 28.05 percent – or $13,918,000, is proposed to be raised through ad valorem taxes.
Like the BWSD, Dedeaux said, the Hancock district will be spending less money, but will have to get a greater percentage of it from local funds.
"New growth would generate somewhere about the $60,000," in increased ad valorem taxes needed for the BWSD, Necaise said, "so we're thinking we're going to be able to get that with no tax increase to individuals, but we won't know that for sure until August. We're required, if we're going to ask for a dollar more, to host a public hearing."
Dedeaux pointed to a state-wide announcement issued Thursday by the Parents' Campaign which said "Mississippi's revenue is coming well above what the Legislature projected ... as much as $300 million – enough to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) for the coming school year.
The Parents' Campaign is a Jackson-based non-profit organization which lobbies the Mississippi Legislature for better K-12 education funding.
The organization estimates that, over the past four years, the state has under-funded the Bay-Waveland School District by $3,867 million; and under-funded the Hancock district by more than $9 million.
With the rosier-than-expected state financial picture, Dedeaux said, "It would be nice if the Legislature would give us some added funding to do some things to help benefit our students.
"I think that would be a wise decision for our Legislature to fund our children.
They're asking a lot from our teachers and administration. It would be nice if the funds would match all the demands that are being made."
The BWSD public hearing on ad valorem taxes is scheduled for Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Bay-Waveland Middle School at 600 Pine St. The Hancock County School District has scheduled its public hearing for Thursday, June 27, at 5:30 p.m. at the superintendent's office, 173-4 Hwy. 603 at Kiln. Both meetings are open to the public.


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