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It’s ‘good news, bad news’ for county under proration

Gov. Bob Riley declared proration of 7.5 percent for the Educational Trust Fund as a new fiscal year was ushered in Thursday.

It came as no surprise to the Central Office of the Butler County School System.

“It’s obviously not positive news, but it is certainly what we expected,” said Mike Looney, school superintendent.

“Our board will be meeting in a work session on Saturday, October 10 to discuss the impact potential of proration and to make some decisions regarding our spending. Our Central Office personnel are already busy compiling lots of data the board can use to make intelligent, informed decisions.”

With 7.5 percent proration, the fiscal year 2010 education budget for the state will be $5.3 billion. Education spending was $4.2 billion in 2003 and reached a record high of $6.7 billion in 2008.

Butler County is facing a “good news, bad news” scenario for public education, Looney said.

“The good news is, we do have a reserve account that will allow us to survive this year without additional cuts; the bad news is, we’ll have very little money left in the bank at the end of the fiscal year, and that is not a situation I want to see happen,” Looney said.

The superintendent, who is leaving at the end of October for a new position with the Williamson County District in Tennessee, said he will continue to strongly encourage the board to seek out ways to save some of those reserve funds, without hurting students.

That would likely mean cuts in personnel.

“I am still recommending reduction in staff starting at the Central Office level, with the potential of reduction elsewhere in the district,” Looney said.

The continued economic crisis for the county’s schools is one of the biggest challenges Joseph Dean, chosen to step into Looney’s shoes as interim superintendent, will face.

“Mr. Dean and I have been working closely together and he is learning volumes. He has really stepped up to the plate, and I am proud of him,” Looney said.