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Jackson County school system facing $1.6 million debt
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JEFFERSON — The Jackson County School System will be heading toward the new school year with a little more than $1 million in debt, according to school financial officials.

Jeff Sanchez, assistant superintendent for finance, told the county board of education earlier this month that the school system is currently looking at a deficit of $1.6 million, "which is a little bit better than I thought we would be."

"The budget committee has met twice and we’re going over all the schedules again, making sure all the classes are full and making sure that we don’t have any extra teachers," he said.

The school district, like many throughout the state, has been dealing with increasing costs and declining sales tax collections for months. A reduction in force plan was implemented at the end of March, which was meant to save between $3 and $4 million.

State funding has also declined significantly, Sanchez reported, which accounts in part for the school system’s struggling finances and brought the system’s previous savings from $4 million to about $1 million.

Superintendent Shannon Adams said the deficit comes more from the lack of state funds and sales tax money than the way the district has spent money.

"On that (the expenditures) side of the table, we’re almost $2 million under what we were last year. So it’s clearly a lack of money coming in. We’re trying to do more and more with less and less," Adams said.

Now, Sanchez and Adams will meet with state department of education officials to get advice on how to deal with the deficit.

"Dr. Adams called John Dunn, who is the head of the financial department at DOE, and we’ve got an appointment with him on the 24th," Sanchez said.

"So we’ll be getting advice on how to record different things and what our options are with deficits and how much money we have to make up and that kind of thing."

Sanchez added that the budget committee will also be looking for federal funding to offset costs.

"The budget committee is looking at textbooks and computer software, seeing if we can either shift it to (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) money or try and take out the textbooks that we may not need as badly. And right now, the idea is not to hurt the instructional program and see if we can thin it out a little bit ... and that’s a challenge," he said.