Tate County schools face bleak budget situation

By Chip Washington - bio | email

TATE COUNTY, MS (WMC-TV) - Officials in the Tate County School District may soon take desperate measures as they try to balance their budget.

The district, which consists of about 3000 students and 250 employees, is relatively small by comparison to many others in the Mid-South.

Last year, the district was taken over by the state of Mississippi because of money concerns and low test scores.  Now, according to James Malone, the district's conservator, Tate County schools are looking at a deficit of $1.16 million dollars this year.

"We've done whatever we could on utilities," Malone said. "Wherever we could cut back, down to rationing out paper and everything else we can do in house to just try and cut back."

But even with that, the savings would be minor. The district is cash-strapped, and with very little options available, the next move may be to cut classroom personnel.

"We're looking at all of that," Malone said. "We've talked about the teacher assistants, assistant principals, counselors, nurses...we've looked at everybody."

That's something that very much concerns Melissa Chambliss, a teacher of nine years at Strayhorn Elementary.

"We also have a 6-month old child and a mortgage, so what happens there if one of us loses our job or both of us lose our job? That's a real possibility," she said.

According to Malone, Tate County schools had to borrow money to actually meet payroll this year.

Even with the cuts that will have to be made, Malone had one message for parents and students.

"We're going to do everything we can to improve the level of academics in the Tate County School District," he said.

But it won't be easy.  Malone said he's been told by state officials that next year district could be facing an additional $2.1 million dollar deficit.

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