Casino Taxes Don't Cover All A School's Expenses

Over the past 10 years, Gulfport schools have collected $11 million in casino revenues. That money goes into one big pot for the district to use as needed. But all too often, some essentials end up being paid for by school teachers themselves.

Gulfport third-grade teacher Pam Opel pays for some of her supplies out of her own pocket. The total for the supplies usually adds up to about $2,000 each year.

"I buy paper every year at the beginning of the school year when it goes on sale, and I load up for the whole year," she said. "As we go through the year, I give the children paper to write on if they don't have paper. If they don't have pencils, I give them pencils."

Kindergarten teacher Cissy Taylor says giving up part of her paycheck is just part of the job.

"Every year, all year, we do so many things in kindergarten like cooking and things like that you just have to put out, and you love doing it because it's for the children and we don't mind."

Gulfport school superintendent Carlos Hicks says it might surprise a lot of people that casino money covers just a very small slice of the budget.

"We're spending about $13 million a year locally from a combination of casino tax, ad-valorem property tax, car tag tax, and all of those monies go into what we call our local general fund," Hicks says.

Hicks adds that people also have the wrong idea of just how much casino profits stay here.

"People are under the impression that casino revenue all stays here, and as a matter of fact, 97 percent of the casino tax goes to Jackson and it's spread over the whole state," he says.

Hicks says if schools that benefit from gaming got every penny of the casino tax collected, the schools probably could do away with taxes altogether, but Hicks says don't count on that happening.