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County schools facing deficit

Crenshaw County Superintendent Randy Wilkes spoke to the Luverne Rotary Club about the state of the school system on Monday, and with proration looming, the outlook is grim.

“We are facing a tremendous shortfall in education,” Wilkes said.

A month’s operating budget for the county school system is around $1.5 million, Wilkes said, while the county has $1 million in reserves.

Wilkes said that the system could be dipping into that reserve soon, perhaps by the summer.

He also said there are a number of contributing factors, including the distribution of state funds.

As it stands, K-12 schools have 77 percent of students compared to higher education, but the school systems only receive 68 percent of state funds.

On the local level, Crenshaw County is set to lose eight teacher units because of declining enrollment, and five additional units will be lost because of the cutting of federal stimulus money.

Among the proposed statewide solutions are cutting the school year back from 182 days to 175, which would make up 2 percent of the budget shortfall.

Locally, other steps are being taken.

“We’re under a hiring freeze,” Wilkes said. “We’re also conserving power and dropping unnecessary programs.”

Cutting back on employees will also be an option on the table.

“It’s gotten very expensive to operate a school system, and we’ve got some very difficult decisions to make, especially concerning peoples’ livelihoods,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough, tough, difficult time.”