Official: stimulus essential for schools

Published 6:40 pm Friday, July 10, 2009

Love it or hate, the federal stimulus package comes down to a matter of being able to maintain staff and services at a reasonable level in our public schools in the coming year.

So says Craig Pouncey, Alabama’s assistant superintendent of education.

“We were subject to losing 8-10,000 employees statewide in K-12. A big part of our budgets is personnel. Education budgets are based on the anticipated amount of tax revenue,” Pouncey said. “When the economy took such a nose dive, we found systems struggling to keep their heads above the water because our tax revenues had really dropped.”

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Through the package, Butler County will receive, over a two-three year period, $1,623,982 for its State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, $874, 667 for IDEA, $1,031,177 for Title 1, Part A and $30, 531 for EETT.

Pouncey said the money was “essential” to the county because it is slated to receive $2 million less in state support in 2010 than it received in 2009.

“The extra federal money helps fill in that hole left by that $2 million loss,” he said.

Pouncey said Butler County’s check from the state would be at least $800,000 less this September without the package.

Don’t assume, however, there are masses of money in the bank just waiting to be spent by the county or state, he added.

“There are many rules and regulations tied to these federal dollars. Each district must submit a special application with a detailed plan, which is then reviewed on three different levels at the state department,” Pouncey said.

Once the application is accepted, the district, after incurring their expenses, then files for reimbursement.

“Once again, those expenditures are gone over carefully in Washington. Then and only then is the money released. It’s basically like a reimbursable voucher,” he said.

Even with the stimulus package monies, the state may have to draw down on funds allocated for 2011 to get through 2009, Pouncey said.

“The Rainy Day Fund does have $224 million in it, and Gov. Riley could draw from it. But to his credit, he has said he does not want the next governor to have nothing to fall back on,” he said.

Pouncey said it had been “a trying year” in education in Alabama. But the Crenshaw County native also praised the county school system for its new construction projects.

“I am in awe at what a rural county like Butler County has done in the past ten years . . . you rank 115th in the state in terms of local revenue generated for your schools ($349.50 per pupil in 2008). But your commitment to public education is second to none,” Pouncey said.