Projected schools budget down $2 million

Published 3:40 pm Monday, September 15, 2008

Lean times are ahead for the Butler County School System.

The Board of Education expects funding for this school year to be an estimated $2 million less than a year ago when board members approve the budget on Sept. 18.

Total local, state and federal funds for fiscal year 2009 will be approximately $27.6 million, according to Sherry Bennett, Chief Financial Officer with the school system.

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Last year’s budget was $29.4 million.

“There’s little doubt we have a shrinking budget,” said Superintendent Mike Looney.

The preliminary funding allocation sheet distributed by Bennett during Thursday’s scheduled budget hearing confirmed Looney’s statement. Funding was slashed nearly $1.2 million from all of Butler County’s state allocations; part of $119 million in cuts to K-12 programs statewide due to the slowing economy.

Alabama State Department of Education officials have indicated school districts could be dealing with the same funding from the state – or less – for the next two to three years due to a bleak economic outlook. Dwindling consumer spending coupled with erratic gas prices and a stagnant home market has halted the nation’s economy.

There’s also the chance the Educational Trust Fund budget could be hit with proration, according to state educators, meaning school districts would have to make drastic middle-of-the-year cuts to an already handcuffed budget.

Teachers in Butler County already suffered a hit in the classroom, losing money for student materials, technology, professional development, and textbooks. Total classroom instructional support funds were down $153,882 from a year ago.

A declining enrollment in 2008 also cost the school system 4.42 teacher units. Average Daily Membership fell by 53 students from 3,432 to 3,379.

The positive, said Looney, is enrollment is expected to increase this year and those teaching units should be recovered for fiscal year 2010.

“We’re looking really good – especially here in Greenville with enrollment,” he said.

The budget goes into effect Oct. 1.