School budget $850K in red

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Marshall County's School Board has sent county commissioners a proposed budget that's $858,000 in the red.

The reasons for the deficit, as explained this week during a joint session of the board and commissioners Education Committee, include uncertainties from civil litigation brought by the Marshall County Education Association against the School Board last spring when teachers alleged bad faith by the school board during contract talks. A four-day trial is to start Tuesday in Chancery Court.

"This budget does not include anything that we're under a mandate not to talk about," Schools Director Stan Curtis said in a veiled reference to a gag order imposed on litigants in the MEA suit, and hardly any other words were spoken during the discussion focused on the proposed school budget.

It's been known for months that conflict arose over insurance benefits, a relatively small part of a $36.4 million spending plan. It consumes all of the system's reserves and would push it into the red by $858,218 if spending isn't cut. The school board has left decisions on spending cuts up to the commissioners.

Property tax hikes were mentioned as an alternative when the two panels met Monday night at school headquarters where other financial difficulties were revealed.

One of the problems the system faces is truancy.

"We have a major problem in this county with attendance," Curtis told the elected leaders. "We've got to address it."

Commissioner Rocky Bowden, vice principal of Forrest High School asked, "Is it costing us?"

Curtis replied school funding is based on average daily attendance.

More children with diabetes is one example of illnesses requiring nurses at school, Curtis continued. Mental health issues increase school costs.

Educators and their staff need more . . .Pick up a copy of Friday, June 20, 2008 edition for full story.