No tax hike for Hancock Co. Schools

Even with plans to construct a new elementary school in Kiln, the Hancock County School district will not be raising taxes for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Superintendent Alan Dedeaux said Tuesday.

The district will keep the same 40.53 millage rate and it is projecting a $46 million budget.

“We have tried some creative ways to keep our budget under control,” Dedeaux said. “We have known the funding cuts from the state have been coming, and we tried to make adjustments ahead of time.”

The Hancock County School District currently serves about 4,500 students at six schools throughout the county.

Since Hurricane Katrina, the district has increased its student population by about three percent.

The number of staff members, however, has actually dropped by about two dozen, Dedeaux said.

“We have had a lot of staff members retire or resign over the past few years and it has actually helped,” Dedeaux said. “A lot of those positions were not re-filled and it helped us same some money.”

Dedeaux said the loss of the staff members will not result in a loss of services or a decrease in the level of education.

“There may be a few classes that see an increase in size, but we are not going above state regulations,” he said. “Every program is important, but with the budget situation, we had to evaluate which ones were the most important.”

In the past 18 months, school districts across Mississippi have had state funding slashed.

Dedeaux said state funding is about 46 percent of the annual budget.

In the past three years, the Hancock County school district has benefited from growth in the north end of the county to be able to make up some of the lost state revenue, Dedeaux said.

In fact, the district actually lowered millage last year to adjust to higher appraisal values, after a state-mandated reappraisal in 2008.

“Our budget is tight this year, but we think we can make it,” Dedeaux said. “Nothing we are doing is going to affect the level of education for the children.”

The district has allocated about $10.5 million this year for construction of a new elementary school in Kiln.

The school will be built at the same site where North Central Elementary currently is currently located.

The funding for the school is already in place, and a bond issue or future tax raise will probably not be necessary, Dedeaux said.

BY: Dwayne Bremer

The Sea Coast Echo

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