The Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District will see a $106,000 shortfall in state funding this school year compared to last year. However, with the Mississippi Legislature not fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program again this year, the district is underfunded $1,065,716.
According to Dr. Teresa Jackson, Superintendent of Education for the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District, the Winona School District and now the Winona-Montgomery County School District has been underfunded $6,589,141 since 2011. Those numbers do not include the Montgomery County School District, which consolidated with Winona School District in 2018, which also was chronically underfunded by the state over the years.
The MAEP formula establishes a base student cost to provide an adequate education to a Mississippi student. Districts provide up to 27 percent of the student base costs through ad valorem taxes, while the state makes up the difference. The formula is recalculated every four years for inflation. The Mississippi Legislature has only fully funded MAEP twice in the last 20 years.
State funding depends on daily attendance during the months of October and November. The state does not look at enrollment but rather those present at school during those two months.
The $1,065,000 deficit in MAEP funding was taken into account as Jackson and the district’s financial staff created the proposed FY2020 budget currently under consideration by the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District.
The proposed budget includes an ad valorem request from Montgomery County taxpayers of $3,801,776, an increase of $1,151,776.
The total budget proposes local and state revenues of $11,993,015 with $10,813,644 in expenses. That allows an increase in the district’s reserve balance of $1,179,351.
A budget hearing was held on Tuesday, June 11 at 5:30 p.m. at Wolfe Lab located on the Winona Secondary School campus. The school board did not vote on the proposed budget and is still in consideration of the matter.
Administratively, the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District appears heavy, Jackson said, which is due to the state’s formula which is $150,000 plus four percent of the district’s total expenditures.
“We don’t have any money so we don’t spend it,” Jackson said. “The state puts a cap on us [of $671,343]. You still have to have school. Because we don’t spend money, we are always at risk of going over the cap.”
This year’s administrative costs increased $114,592.
“We have added a full-time Director of Special Education this year,” Jackson said.
Former Carroll County Assistant Superintendent Rana Mitchell will join the district this year as Director of Student Services, which includes special education.
The proposed budget also includes an additional assistant principal at Winona Elementary School.
“We have over 800 students at the elementary school, so adding an assistant principal is essential due to the special needs of elementary students,” Jackson said.
With more than 500 students at Winona Secondary School, filling the position of Kelvin Winbush, who retired this year, with a new assistant principal was necessary.
Two new projects are in the works this year by the district – all new windows in Winona Secondary School and a renovation of the school’s track.
According to Jackson, the new windows will be paid for through energy savings and a small loan, and the school board is moving forward with the project.
“We are looking at $40,000 in savings in its second year,” Jackson said. “We are ‘sealing the envelope.’ The current windows aren’t sealed and energy efficient, and you will have a more pleasant exterior. It is also about student comfort, which is most important. The classrooms are either cold and drafty or hot.”
Jackson said the district is also repairing the high school track, which will cost approximately $150,000.
“We host a lot of track meets with a substandard track,” Jackson said. “With the new track we are going to be able to host a lot more. It will really boost our athletic programs.”
Jackson said the renovation should be completed by the time school starts in August, and every athlete, not just track participants, will benefit from the renovation.
“We’ve also had a lot of state champions in track, and we want to continue that,” Jackson said.