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Fuel Costs, Utility Rates Cost School Big Bucks – Cell Phones A Problem

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – Several handbook revisions and a glimpse at the impact of out-of-control diesel prices and increased city utility bills on the coming fiscal year’s budget at the Water Valley School District were among topics at a Monday night meeting.

    The increases were included in a lengthy meeting agenda as planning for the 2008-2009 school year gets underway underway. A budget for the new year will be adopted in the summer, prior to the July 1 beginning of the new fiscal year.

    “I am trying to give you some information for expenses you cannot control,” Water Valley School District Business Manager Randy Goodwin told  school trustees as he presented a month-by-month comparison of diesel fuel prices and city utilities. The comparisons were taken from the current fiscal year, 2007–2008, and the previous year, 2006-2007, which began July, 2006. In  the comparison period, the school is paying just over $1.11 more per gallon, with  the current gallon figure at  $3.60.

    The utility comparison showed the school district had expended $8,841.98 more for city’s water, garbage and sewage services in the 2007-2008 school year as compared to the previous year.

    “We went to the city to see why it has gone up so drastically,” Goodwin explained.

    Although usage is up some, Goodwin said he also learned that garbage fees have seen a hefty increase as have water and sewage rates charged by the city.

    “It will cost us well over $50,000 more dollars between the two,” Superintendent Sammy Higdon added, referring to the increase for the coming fiscal year.  

Stagnant Growth

    With the new state budget adopted by legislators, Higdon said the district would receive almost $91,000 “new money” from the state based on the Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula. Of this money, $77,751 will be gobbled for teacher’s pay increases. This annual increase is state-mandated because each teacher in the district receives a salary increase for each year of experience added to their career.

    “The new money the district can do something with is $13,548,” Higdon said, referring to the difference in the two figures. “This means we can’t do  anything new,” Higdon added.

    Adding to the tight margin is a drop in the number of students attending the Water Valley School District. Although the district only lost 4.1 students, the state will allocate $18,342 less in the coming year based on the school’s head count.

    “What we really need is to see 10 new students per year,” the superintendent added.

Handbook Changes

    School trustees adopted minor handbook revisions for both the high school and elementary school for the coming year.

    Limited parking at the high school and daily problems with student cell phones sparked two of the most important handbook revisions, according to High School Principal Glenn Kitchens.

    “We don’t have a slot for all the cars anymore,” Kitchens said of the limited parking spaces. Beginning with the new school year, parking spaces will be offered to seniors first. Juniors will be next on the list, with sophomores following until the slots are all taken.

    The high school’s cell phone policy was also addressed next by the board.

    Kitchens said stiffer language and enforcement was needed after students sometimes failed to hand over cell phones to teachers when first asked. Often times when a principal is summoned the student would then relinquish the phone, but this is too late according to Kitchens.

    “It is a real disobedience issue for the faculty,” Kitchens explained.

    Beginning in the new year, if a student fails to hand over a phone to a teacher immediately, they will automatically receive a three-day suspension from school.

    “Are cell phones a problem this year?” Trustee Cayce Washington asked when the issue was raised.

    “Cell phones are a problem every single day,” was the quick answer from Kitchens. The principal explained that teachers confiscate six to eight phones each day and that 10 to 15 students have chosen suspension over relinquishing their cellular phones to school authorities.

    School policy cites that cell phones “in view” of a teacher or found on a student will be confiscated by school officials

    For the first-time offender, the parents may retrieve the confiscated phone by scheduling a meeting with the principal.

    Additional offenses allow school officials to retain the phone until the end of the semester, according to the school’s policy.

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