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franklin county times

Funding education

By Staff
SHOPPING FOR SUPPLIES Yolando Cole and her son, Brandon Davis, shop for school supplies at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Meridian. Wal-Mart keeps school supplies near the main entrance; the store sells supplies students will need when attending area schools this fall. Classes for the new school year start Thursday in Meridian public schools and Aug. 9 in Lauderdale County public schools. PHOTO BY KYLE CARTER / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
August 2, 2004
Retired Meridian school teacher Gloria Johnson said she doesn't mind paying more taxes to help fund planned $1.75 million in repairs to buildings in the city school district.
Melanie Luke, a retired county school teacher, said she believes county school officials put her tax dollars to good use. But, she said, she isn't sure a tax increase should help fund a raise for the county school superintendent.
Luke and Johnson are among thousands of Lauderdale County residents who will pay more in property taxes this year to help fund public education in the Lauderdale County and Meridian public school districts.
Meridian School Board members passed a 2.7 percent tax increase to help fund a $60.5 million budget. Lauderdale County School Board members approved a 1.35 percent tax increase to help fund a $59.4 million budget.
Both budgets are for the school year that started July 1 and ends June 30, 2005.
Meridian's budget will use money from the tax increase to help pay off the $1.75 million loan the school district will borrow to fund school building repairs at nine of its 15 campuses beginning next summer.
The budget also includes money to fund up to an 8 percent raise for school principals and Superintendent Sylvia Autry. The raises will depend on how well students perform on standardized tests they took earlier this year.
A full 8 percent raise would increase Autry's pay from $103,000 a year to $111,240 a year.
In Lauderdale County, school board members took a different approach: They approved automatic, 6 percent raises for principals and central office administrators and 8 percent raises for district support staff.
Superintendent David Little also received a 6 percent raise, increasing his pay from $72,000 a year to $76,320 a year. Little's and other county raises are not tied to test scores.
While many residents like Luke and Johnson are concerned with school spending, some aren't.
Even though Tiny Terrell lives in the county and pays county taxes, she said she doesn't pay much attention to how her money is spent. Terrell is a nurse at East Mississippi State Hospital.
At a glance
MERIDIAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Here is a quick look at the Meridian Public School District:
School Superintendent: Sylvia Autry, hired by five-member school board; she earns $103,000 a year
School Board: Five members appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.
Faculty: 465 classroom teachers and 164 teacher assistants.
Enrollment: 6,729 students during the 2003-2004 school year.
Elementary schools: Crestwood, Harris Upper, Oakland Heights, Parkview, Poplar Springs, West End, West Hills and Witherspoon.
Middle and junior high schools: Carver Middle, Magnolia Middle, Kate Griffin Junior High and Northwest Junior High.
High schools: Meridian High School.
Others: Ross Collins Career and Technical Center and the Marion Park Complex.
LAUDERDALE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Here is a quick look at the Lauderdale County Public School District:
School Superintendent: David Little, elected at-large by county voters; he earns $76,320 a year.
School Board: Five members elected from single-member districts.
Faculty: 456 classroom teachers and 116 teacher assistants.
Enrollment: 6,575 students during the 2003-2004 school year.
Elementary schools: Northeast Lauderdale and West Lauderdale.
Middle schools: Northeast Lauderdale and Southeast Lauderdale.
High schools: Northeast
Lauderdale.
Attendance centers: Clarkdale, Southeast Lauderdale, West
Lauderdale.
Other: Bonita Educational Center.
Sources: Meridian and Lauderdale County public school districts.

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