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School system prepares for proration

By By SHERRY DIGMON
Advance Staff Writer
Dr. Sandra Sims-deGraffenried told the superintendents and board members, "Fasten your seat belts. We're in for a rough ride."
When she made that statement, nobody had any idea just how rough that ride might be.
DeGraffenried, executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards, addressed District I school boards last Thursday evening, advising them to be prepared for budget cuts.
Indeed, superintendents and board members were preparing for proration – but not at 7 or 8 percent. Most expected 3 to 6 percent. The 8 percent bombshell is expected to be announced by Gov. Don Siegelman Friday.
An 8 percent budget cut means about a $1.5 million loss in Escambia County.
Powell has already started cutting expenses in the county. Last week, he submitted a memo to all principals, directors and supervisors, addressing travel, maintenance projects, substitutes, field trips and energy conservation.
School systems across Alabama have been expecting the cuts as sales tax revenue for schools has failed to meet expectations. Dr. Sims-deGraffenried said it was not a matter of if, but when.
However, Gov. Siegelman may have no choice.
Money is appropriated to education by the state legislature. The amount is based on projected income from sales tax revenue. This year, the legislature projected income at 4.4 percent higher than last year's income. However, sales tax revenue was down 2 percent from last year.
The decrease in state revenue is not the only problem in Escambia County.
Powell said most school systems have a few teachers over the number paid for by the state, and it's usually not a problem. He added that the county could probably live with 10 or 12 teachers over – but not 37 and certainly not with proration.
Cuts will be necessary in personnel and programs.
As Dr. Sims-deGraffenried said, "I know a lot of you don't have reserves. We know there's a financial tornado coming so batten down your hatches."