Sequestration could affect school system

Published 8:59 am Thursday, February 21, 2013

Federal budget cuts may soon have far-reaching effects, including cuts to public school funding.

National media outlets report that the government budget cuts, called a sequestration, would total $85 billion.

Superintendent Randy Wilkes told the Crenshaw County Board of Education on Monday that such cuts would likely affect education immediately.

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“Two weeks ago, we thought we could avoid the cuts until a new fiscal year,” he said.

The cuts are set to go into effect on March 1 unless Congress reaches an agreement, and Wilkes said the school system could expect a five- to nine percent reduction in federal funds beginning in March.

“This is like proration at a federal level,” he said. “We feel that.”

Wilkes said that the system would lose access to over $200,000 in funding.

However, even if federal funding is temporarily inaccessible, the school system has reserve funds on hand to continue operation.

Chief Financial Officer Ken Wesley reported that the system has 2.7 months of operating reserves, which totals nearly $2 million.

“Our cash on hand balance is more than enough to cover a month,” Wilkes said.

Wilkes said the solution has to come from beyond Crenshaw County.

“We have to pray that the federal government will cross those aisles to protect education and other federal programs out there,” he said.

Wesley said that the sales tax numbers for the county for December were up nearly $50,000 over last year, but that property tax payments were down $63,000.

“It’s just a timing thing,” said Wesley, who added that there are normally fluctuations  in tax figures depending on the timing of the report.

He said things are “looking good” despite the looming possibility of federal budget cuts.

In other business, the Board heard a “good news” report from HOSA sponsor Becky Cornelius.

Cornelius teaches classes to students looking to pursue a career in health services, and 22 students from across the system to the state HOSA leadership conference.

Over half of those students placed in competitions at the event.

“It’s probably the most awards we’ve won since we started going,” she said. “We’ve always placed some, but this group is very competitive.”

County HOSA members competed against schools from all classifications, including, Hoover, Sparkman, Bob Jones, and Arab.

The HOSA members are planning to attend the national conference in Nashville this summer, and will be raising money for that trip.

“I think it will be a fabulous experience,” Cornelius said.

The Board was also addressed by John Harris, a citizen who spoke about the possible change from electing a superintendent to appointing one.

In January, the BOE presented a resolution to change the way Superintendents take office, and lawmakers are looking into what process would be required for such a measure.

Harris was complimentary of the Board and Superintendent, commending them on working well together in the students’ best interest.

He also urged the Board to allow voters to continue to elect the Superintendent.

“One vote is what we ask for,” said Harris.

Harris said he graduated from Woodford High School in the late 1960s.

“When we came through here, we didn’t have any voice as to what was said or how it was done,” Harris said.

Harris said the Board and Superintendent need to continue to work for a common goal: the children.

“Let’s go forward, not back to where we’ve been,” he said.