Balancing the JPS budget

Jackson Public Schools will begin its 2007-2008 year with a balanced budget, despite state mandates for more teachers and rising fuel costs.

Legislators fully funded the Mississippi Adequate Education Program during the last legislative session, something they've done only twice since the program's inception—both of those during election years. The state gave JPS more than $10 million this year, a rise of about $900,000 over MAEP funding for last year.

Even with full funding, however, the district had to make some budget cuts.

"We're grateful to the state, but MAEP funds only a certain percentage of teachers," said JPS Board Vice President Jonathan Larkin. "MAEP comes with state mandates. It paid for a lot of increases, but there were also a lot of local increases in teachers as well. You can't overload classrooms."

The state Legislature approved a 3 percent salary hike for teachers this year, and the district will pay more than $4 million in raises for teachers and teacher assistants. The district suffered almost $1 million in increased health insurance costs.

The district balanced its $220 million budget after drawing almost $4 million from its reserve fund and making hard budget cuts. The board decided to cut a $71,000 executive director position, and to reduce furniture and equipment purchases by almost $68,000. JPS was slated to replace about 100 buses in its aging fleet but opted instead to replace about half that number.

"It'll mean increased maintenance costs, but we've got to save where we can," Larkin said. "We'll definitely feel it. We may feel it in the loss of personnel when they go to other (higher paying) districts, or we may have trouble attracting personnel from other districts."


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