DCS holds millage request stable for another year
Board also hears about teacher salaries and school security
One thing DeSoto County property taxpayers will again be happy to hear coming out of the DeSoto County School District budget hearing Thursday afternoon is that there won’t be any millage increases coming from the school district side of the property tax bill.
The DCS budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2022, starting July 1, will remain the same at 52.85 mills, as it was during the current fiscal year that ends on June 30. Supt. Cory Uselton and district financial officers made the proposal presentation during the hearing held before the regularly scheduled meeting in Hernando. The budget proposal is expected to be approved when the Board of Education meets again on June 16 at 10 a.m.
Of the 52.85 mills the school district is requesting, the majority of it again goes to operations, at 49.85 mills. Another three mills goes to a three-mill note the district is paying on.
Total budget revenues for the new fiscal year are projected to be $417,132,433, compared to near $377.68 million in the current fiscal year.
Of revenues, just over 49 percent of the funds, or $205 million, will come from state sources, 29.6 percent will be in local dollars at $123.49 million, and 21 percent, or more than $88.625 million, is in federal money.
While revenues will increase, DCS expenditures are also expected to increase by about $20 million in the new fiscal year, from $426.34 million to about $446.92 million.
Among the areas to see additions in the next school year are the addition of 27 special education teachers, nine regular education teachers, three speech pathologists, a total of nine other teachers and a therapist in such areas as Gifted, English Language Learner, a program called RAMP, a lead mentor teacher for elementary and one for secondary, and a dyslexia therapist.
Planned capital projects using what are called certificates of participation for funding include classroom additions for Southaven Intermediate, Center Hill High, Center Hill Elementary, and Lake Cormorant Middle. A Marine Corps JROTC building at Lake Cormorant High School is planned, as are roof replacement projects at Walls Elementary, Olive Branch Middle, Southaven Intermediate, and Center Hill Elementary schools.
Also on the horizon will be movement forward on the construction of a new Hernando High School the district has announced will happen. It’s expected a budget amendment later this year will be needed to move forward on that project.
DCS teachers will receive an additional $620 in the local part of their salary, in addition to the state-passed teacher pay raise. That means a beginning instructor in the state’s largest school district will pull down about $46,501 annually, when state and local supplements are combined.
“There’s been a total increase at the local supplement of $2,020 since 2018. It gives our teachers a local supplement of $5,000 on the low end of it, all the way to $5,384. The supplement varies with the years of experience increase, but all of our teachers will be receiving at least a $5,000 supplement.”
The plan, Uselton said, is to continue making incremental increases on the local supplement side beyond the upcoming fiscal year. He believes the teacher paycheck will now put DeSoto County Schools near the top among Mississippi school districts.
Uselton also proposed increasing the district budget for School Resource Officers (SROs) to at least $2 million and an additional $1 million for safety programs and upgrades.
Security concerns on campuses have become top of mind in the country with the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, however school security has been an issue Uselton said his district has been trying to address the past several years.
“In 2019-2020 we began giving $750,000 out of our budget each year to help the school resource officers,” Uselton said. “We’re not just now starting to try to increase school resource officers. This has been a continuing effort over the last several years.”
In 2017-18, there were 15 school resource officers covering 38 schools and no contribution in funding from the school district. In 2018-19, 50 percent of the schools were covered by a SRO, and the district has been at over 75 percent covered each year since then. This past year, there were 30 SROs covering the 39 schools in the district. Each school has been covered but not all of the SROs were on campus for the entire day.
Uselton said, with assistance from the cities and DeSoto County, along with the added funding, he hopes to have a school resource officer on every district campus this school year.
“We feel confident about our security measures in our schools, but just like any school district we all want to continue to strengthen those measures,” said Uselton. “Obviously it is a concerning time but we want to make sure that we are putting measures in place that parents can feel confident about.”