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Barbour decides to take stimulus money

JACKSON — The State of Mississippi will apply for $98 million for school districts from the recent education stimulus bill passed by Congress, Gov. Haley Barbour told legislators, superintendents and school board members in letters.

The Governor’s Office has been assured by federal officials that Mississippi meets the requirements allowing states to access the funds. Initially, it appeared the state would be forced to shift money from other departments to qualify.

“Although I would have voted against this legislation were I in Congress, I intend to apply for the approximately $98 million in funding for K-12 education,” Barbour wrote to legislators. “Our taxpayers, and their children and grandchildren are on the hook for the debt resulting from this federal spending, and it does not require us to raise taxes or make other negative policy changes, so I believe Mississippians should receive the extra funds for education purposes.”

The U.S. Department of Education requires the money be spent by Sept. 2012, which allows districts to reserve the money for the next school year. With the loss of stimulus funds and projected increases in education and debt service, Mississippi potentially faces a $1-billion shortfall in fiscal year 2012.

“FY 12 is poised to be the most difficult budgetary year our state has had in recent memory,”Barbour wrote. “Because of decreased revenue and the loss of some federal stimulus funds, this year’s budget already includes many sharp reductions in spending. FY 12 will require even deeper cuts.”

In a separate letter to school officials, Gov. Barbour urged districts to reserve the funds for FY 2012.

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