Schools lose $1.3 million

Published 7:58 pm Wednesday, December 17, 2008

“I was just shocked at the numbers when I heard it,” Crenshaw County Schools Superintendent Kathi Wallace said at Monday night’s Board meeting. “I was expecting six, maybe seven percent, but not 12.5.”

“We can’t say what will be affected right now, but it’s already being said that FY 2010 will be worse,” she added.

As for the Crenshaw County School System, a nine percent proration of the county’s total state fund allocation is $1,304,344—money that will be cut from this year’s fiscal budget.

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Declining state tax collections have forced Gov. Bob Riley to announce massive cuts in state spending. Public education is taking its biggest hit in 48 years, and many state agencies are looking at double-digit reductions.

Riley declared proration – or across-the-board spending cuts – of 12.5 percent Monday. Riley said he would use half of the state’s $437 million Rainy Day Fund to ease the cuts and make the effective proration rate 9 percent.

The cut in the fiscal 2009 education budget would be the biggest cut since education spending was prorated 14.1 percent in fiscal year 1961. Since then, the biggest proration has been 6.5 percent in 1991. State law does not allow a reduction in school salaries. That means the reductions will have to come out of non-salary expenditures.

“It might affect our Fleet renewal,” Wallace said. “We could leave the buses on the road for 12 years instead of 10—that’s a proration possibility.”

“We’re supposed to have at least one month of operating funds on hand, and this will wipe out everything we have in our general funds.”

Even though the future looks dismal, Wallace stressed the fact that all of this was speculation at this point.

“We have the ad valorem taxes and reappraisals from the county that are still coming in this month, and December is usually a big month for that, so that’s probably good news there,” she said.

The school system now receives an extra two mills from property taxes, for a total of 10 mills.

The projected cuts will affect all operations except construction, Wallace explained, including staffing, the ability to purchase textbooks, supplies and even paying power bills. Federal funds for construction and renovations have already been earmarked for such purposes and are not prorated.

As far as teacher units, certified personnel are under contract at least until May. But when it comes to non-tenured personnel losing their jobs at the end of the school year, Wallace said that will have to wait probably until the legislators address the FY 2010 budget. If there is a reduction in staff numbers, teachers can expect to see larger class sizes next fall.

School Board members tried to remain optimistic even with the gloomy outlook.

“We’ve learned to say no to things at home, and we’ll have to learn to do it at school,” Board Chairman Steve Sanders said. “It’s going to be tough, but we’ll be fine one way or the other.”