Biloxi Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul A. Tisdale warned staff this afternoon that employee layoffs have gone from being a possibility next school year to a probability.
Tisdale, speaking to a gathering of teachers and administrators in a district-wide meeting in the Biloxi Junior High School auditorium, said that budget shortfalls may eventually lead to unpaid days of leave for administrators, principals, vocational teachers, counselors and teaching assistants. Additionally, teaching vacancies are expected to go unfilled next school year, meaning larger class sizes, saving the district as much as $1.6 million. Reductions also are being considered in technology and textbook purchases, coaching salary supplements and janitorial services.
Tisdale and school administrators are looking to make $3.5 million in budget cuts to offset reductions in state education funding. Already this year, Biloxi has absorbed $1.6 million in funding cuts, with another 12 percent expected to be slashed by the state in the approaching budget, which takes effect July 1.
"These budget cuts that you have been hearing about over the past several months are becoming a big part of our reality," Tisdale said.
The school district's fund balance -- "sort of like your savings account," Tisdale said -- has gone from $11 million last year to $5 million this budget year.
"What that means is that to maintain services, we budgeted for a $2 million shortfall in last year's budget and a $4 million shortfall this fiscal year," Tisdale said. "If we have another $4 million deficit, we will have exhausted our savings account."
School leaders hope that Keesler's new military housing units will help boost student enrollment, which increases state and federal funding. District-wide, enrollment remains about 22 percent off its pre-Katrina level of 6,100 students. State funding is tied to student enrollment. In the past, every 250 students has meant about a million dollars in state funding for Biloxi, Tisdale said.
The final word on the budget will not become clearer until June or July, as school board members begin finalizing a new budget, which must be approved by Aug. 15.