State Must Cut $116 Million From Budget, Musgrove Says

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove announced budget cuts Wednesday morning exceeding $116 million, citing a continued downturn in tax collections.

The largest cut, as expected, was $56.7 million for the public schools. School districts were told a week ago to expect the cuts and make plans to address them.

Musgrove cut $55 million from the state budget in November. He told WLOX news on Wednesday that although education has been cut the most, it's an area we need to pay more attention.

"This is what we said last spring when the legislature over inflated the budget estimates. This is what happens, you have to cut back," Musgrove said. "What we need to do is build a solid budget and real numbers and make education and our schools a priority, make sure our teachers have what they need, make sure that we have the things that will make us successful in the future."

The announcement from the governor was unwelcome news for educators, but not unexpected. School officials were told to prepare for the cuts last week.

"I don't think it could have come at a worse time, but at this point we want to do the best that we can to cut back on resources in many areas unless we just have to cut teachers and staff and faculty members," North Gulfport Principal Bobby Jones said. "That would be the last resort. We're going to try to cut back on energy, and we might have to cut out some programs."

Mississippi's economy, like the national economy, has been in recession the past several months. Mississippi's tax collections fell below expectations the first seven months of the 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. Sales taxes alone represented $10.4 million of the shortfall.

State fiscal officer Gary Anderson, in a letter Wednesday to all state agencies, asked departments to show his office by March 1 where they would make the cuts.