School Board OKs budget, eyes test scores

Staff Writer

Preliminary test score numbers show the West Point School District "should be okay," but ever-moving targets for state standards make it hard to know for sure, the district's superintendent told school board members Monday night.

Meanwhile, the board approved its 2019 budget with no changes from the plan presented during a public hearing June 25.

"We've gotten the preliminary numbers back and we see a lot of improvement in some areas across the district," Superintendent Burnell McDonald said in brief remarks to board members.
"They changed the cut scores again, but we don't know what they are yet so we don't no ratings. If the cut scores remain where they were last year, as a district we'll be fine, some schools may move up, one could go down. When we know we'll let you know," he added.

Meanwhile, the board approved without discussion its $31.6 million budget by $179,000.

That includes a small $179,000 local tax revenue increase could could require a 1.25 mill tax increase if property values don't increase enough to make up the difference.

The overall budget already is down $1 million from 2018, including 13.5 positions.
The budget requests $7,643,217 in local property taxes for operations and an outstanding 3-mill note, which is about $179,000 more than last year.

Based on the $132,710 value of a mill, a 1.25 mill ad valorem tax increase would be needed to cover that difference.

That amounts to about $11 a year on a $100,000 home. The district's current operating property tax is 52.75.

If the value of a mill goes up $3,400 over last year's amount, a tax increase would not be needed.
The Board of Selectmen will set the tax rate in September after the city receives property and millage values from the county.
Of the budget, $22,020,290 -- 69.69 percent -- is salaries and benefits. Transportation makes up another $2,042,788 -- 6.46 percent. Food costs (3.14 percent), professional services (4.52 percent), and debt (1.81 percent) leave little room for reductions.

One area where the district might have some wiggle room is utilities, which are budgeted at $794,255 or 2.51 percent of the budget.

The district thinks it will save some by not using Central School this year but will eat up some of that savings by reopening unused spaces at Fifth Street and the North Campus at the high school. The district also took a beating with an unusually cold winter earlier this year and budget writers "budgeted high" to try to safeguard against another unexpected hit.