DeSoto County school board members approve budget for fiscal 2015-16, no tax increase

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HERNANDO, Mississippi — The DeSoto County schools budget calls for no tax increase but officials say more state money is needed.

"To keep the quality we have, it's eventually going to be a problem if the state says we're not going to fund education," schools superintendent Milton Kuykendall said Wednesday.

The Commercial Appeal reports ( board members approved a budget that includes $272 million in revenue and $300 million in expenses. The deficit of $27.5 million will be made up from reserve or carry-over funds.

The practice of using reserve funds to offset shortfalls is common, although the amount of reserve funds used this time is higher. And, district officials warn, it will only get worse without more state money.

"If the state doesn't fund us and we want to remain an A district (under state rankings), that's a possibility," business manager Stacey Graves said.

The DeSoto district, the largest in the state, is especially hurt by the shortfalls as it fails to receive funding to address new students who move into the district each year.

"We got 333 kids this year who we didn't get funding for," Kuykendall said. "We still have to hire teachers, buy books. Proposition 42 (the school funding proposal) needs to pass for the kids. I won't be here, but the district needs it."

Kuykendall is not seeking re-election this year and will leave office in December.

More than 100,000 people signed petitions to put Initiative 42 on the ballot. Its title says 42 would require "an adequate and efficient system of free public schools." People could sue if education funding falls short.

The Republican-controlled Legislature put Initiative 42-A on the ballot as an alternative. The original title for 42-A, written by Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, said lawmakers must fund "effective free public schools."

A circuit judge rewrote the title of 42-A to say the Legislature should fund effective schools, but to specify that there is no mechanism for enforcement — meaning that the Legislature didn't specify people could file a lawsuit if funding falls short.

The election is Nov. 3.

Information from: The Commercial Appeal,

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