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Oxford and Lafayette school districts affected by state’s pay raise error

Mississippi teachers finally received good news when a pay raise was approved by state legislators and signed by Governor Phil Bryant; unfortunately the good news was joined by some bad. Due to what several reports called an administrative error, not all public school teachers and their assistants were accounted for in the $1,500 pay raise.

The news comes to Oxford and Lafayette School Districts at a time when budgets are tight and money is stretched across several areas, including both district’s hefty bond issues.

“It’s unfortunate,” Oxford superintendent Brian Harvey said. “Their emphasis is the system, which all of that data comes from is an antiquated, old system. The way that the legislature asked for it is different from the normal MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program) fund. So, doing something for the first time with a system (such as that), it’s unfortunate. That’s just one of those things that come up.”

A mistake in the way certain teachers are coded in an information system resulted in not enough state money to provide raises to all of the teachers incorrectly coded. This leaves the affected school districts with the task of footing the bill.

Lafayette’s district was short-changed by $100,000 with Oxford coming in just under that mark at around $95,000. The miscalculation left a gap of $12 million to $14 million for the entire state. Last week, Bryant was adamant there would not be a special legislative session called to work on a solution to fix the error.

“The taxpayers of Mississippi should not have to fund a special session because of a mistake made by the Department of Education,” Bryant said in a statement last week. “MDE should identify any other funds that can be used to pay for the raises not accounted for in the original funding, and the Legislature can refund that source through a deficit appropriation in January.”

Oxford’s teachers have already signed their contracts for the 2019-20 school year and will make up the difference out of their operation budget. Lafayette has yet to get contracts finalized with their teachers, but superintendent Dr. Adam Pugh said that process would be happening soon.

The error hits Lafayette the hardest. They will honor the raise and pay the missing funds out of their operating budget as well, leaving a massive hole in their operating budget.

“That’s just going to take more out of our operating budget and our operating budget is salaries, what we pay our lights with and all that,” Pugh said. “It’s going to be a hit to us.”