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Education hard hit by budget cuts

By Staff
From staff and wire reports
Feb. 13, 2002
JACKSON Medicaid and education, both spared from state budget cuts in November, took most of the hits Wednesday when Gov. Ronnie Musgrove slashed another $116 million.
More than $64 million came out of state Department of Education programs, including $56.7 million that will directly affect classrooms. Medicaid took a $10 million hit.
The cuts will affect programs funded during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
State Superintendent of Education Richard Thompson said local school districts will shortly receive a breakdown of the cuts by school system. The department generally makes the cuts uniform among the schools.
Meridian School Superintendent Janet McLin said last week she hoped employee attrition would help the district weather the loss of state funds.
If not, she said, the district is prepared to cut teachers and possibly delay the purchase of textbooks.
Lauderdale County School Superintendent David Little said last week that he also will bank on employee attrition. Little said some elective subjects could be eliminated.
Medicaid's budget cut complicated that agency's fiscal woes. Medicaid already is the target of a $148 million bail out plan being considered by the state Legislature.
Mississippi's economy, like the national economy, has been in recession the past several months. State tax collections fell below expectations the first seven months of the current fiscal year.
Figures released from January tax collections showed revenues were $35 million below expectations. The January numbers represent sales taxes and other collections from December.
Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, a member of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee which advises lawmakers on state agency funding said agencies ought to be able to absorb the cuts.
Rep. Charlie Capps, D-Cleveland, chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee said he wasn't surprised by the amount of money Musgrove had to cut.
Pam Smith, an associate commissioner of higher education, said the universities had stored away some funds in anticipation of more cuts. She said the College Board also had set aside money in student financial aid and other areas to cushion the blow.
The state's eight public universities were cut $4.7 million Wednesday. Combined with $9.6 million cuts in November, the eight universities have been cut $14.3 million this fiscal year.
Musgrove spared some agencies from the first round of budget cuts in November. He had to play catch up Wednesday in the second round.
State law requires the governor to reduce all agency' budgets by 5 percent before he can cut any of them more than 5 percent. Some agencies have now been cut the full 5 percent. Others have been cut slightly less.

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