Area school districts no longer in charge of covering pay raise error

Published 9:06 am Thursday, July 25, 2019

In April, schools across the state were informed there had been a error when accounting for all teachers who were eligible for a projected $1,500 pay raise.

Schools were going to have to find a way to make up the money to pay those teachers who would be missing out on the money coming from the bill passed by state legislature in March. This week, the Mississippi Department of Education informed school districts that they will not have to find the money on their own, at least through the end of the calendar year.

School districts will be allocated enough money through the current appropriation to cover the monthly cost of the teacher pay raise. The news comes at the perfect time for Oxford and Lafayette School Districts, who were working to approve their budgets for the upcoming school year while also finding ways to tighten their belt to make sure every one of their teachers who are supposed to receive the $1,500 raise, did.

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On Monday, the Oxford School District’s Board of Trustees held a public hearing and presented their proposed budget for the 2019-20 school year. They will vote on the budget at their regular meeting on July 29.

“I think we’re where we need to be and from a long-range planning stand point, we’ve taken steps to deliver to the taxpayers what was approved in the bond,” OSD superintendent Brian Harvey said.

Both school districts have also been trying to balance their budgets while navigating their respective bond issues that include new elementary schools, athletic fields and other buildings.

Oxford was left trying to find an extra $95,000, which Harvey stated earlier this year would be covered in OSD’s operational budget. Lafayette was short $100,000 and was set to pay for the raise out of its operating budget, which LCSD superintendent Adam Pugh noted would “be a hit” to them. The miscalculation left a gap of somewhere between $12 to 14 million for the entire state.

The MDE is going to cover the raises through December, but state legislators have communicated back to the MDE that they will work to find a way to allocate the second half of this school year when they reconvene in January.

The total cost of 40,991 educators receiving the $1,500 pay raise and associated fringe benefits is $76.9 million, an increase of $18.5 million from the original estimate of 31,157 educators.