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Budget forecast grim for county schools

By By SHERRY DIGMON
Advance Staff Writer
The financial picture was bleak at the Escambia County Board of Education budget hearing Thursday.
At the end of September 2000, the unrestricted fund balance was $5.1 million. Gov. Don Siegelman called for a 6.2 percent proration which cut $1.2 million from the system's projected revenues. In other words, the proration that was mandated last school year used approximately $1.2 million of the school system's reserve.
The board started this school year with a $3 million beginning fund balance.
The system is currently operating under a 6.2 percent decrease in funding, which is not a called proration but is a decrease nevertheless.
The projected fund balance for the end of the next fiscal year, 2002, is $1.15 million.
When state (foundation) funding is cut, the shortfall has to be made up in local (system) funding. (An article on the budget and proration will be published in the Wednesday edition of The Advance.)
The cut in funds hit home during the regular meeting which was convened immediately following the budget hearing.
The board voted to charge schools 80 cents per mile plus driver expenses for field trips. The charge does not apply to athletic events.
Transportation Supervisor Billy Hines said the measure is a way to get some of the transportation costs back, adding that some schools may have to consider cutting out field trips.
Powell said the other choice was for the system to eliminate field trips completely.
In other business, the board
recognized David Lanier, agriscience instructor and FFA advisor at W.S. Neal High School, who was selected as Most Outstanding Teacher in his field for the state of Alabama in the 2002-2001 school year;
recognized the Atmore Advanced Babe Ruth team for their state championship;
Board member Steve McGill, who was one of the team's coaches, introduced the players who were at the meeting. He talked about the fact that these ballplayers came from different schools, yet built a team;
approved payment of AASA dues for the school system and the superintendent;
named Sherry Digmon of The Atmore Advance as the school system's selection for the Education Media Honor Roll 2001 sponsored by the Alabama Association of School Boards;
voted to open a non-interest bearing checking account for the purpose of holding the money withheld from employees' payroll for the dependent care and unreimbursed medical expense section of the cafeteria plan. This account, which fulfills an IRS requirement, will be opened at the Bank of Brewton where the general fund is.
approved an embedded credit program in career/technical education. An embedded credit is a program (not a course) with sufficient hours (at least 140) of embedded academic (math and/or science) content. For instance, in the career/technical program, a student may take building construction and receive an embedded math credit;
awarded the Brainchild bid to TNT, Inc. Brainchild is an instructional item used in remediation classes.
voted to allow Greater Mt. Triumph Baptist Church to lease the property previously occupied by the Escambia County Middle School cafeteria for the amount of $1 per year for the next three years. Powell said the church plans to use the area for food bank and clothes closet for the needy.
voted to allow the Alabama Army National Guard to use the land adjacent to Escambia County High School for the purpose of communications training and establishing the Alabama Emergency Management Communications Network for a period of five weekends a year for three years.
voted to form a foundation for Turtle Point Science Center. All donations made to the Turtle Point Foundation will be put into an account to be used to further the financial stability of Turtle Point.
Powell said some individuals would like to donate to the center but want to be assured the money will be used there.
heard a request from board member Danny Benjamin. He urged Powell to stress to coaches the importance of watching for heat-related symptoms in their athletes.
set the next board meeting for Sept. 27, 4:30 p.m., at the central office. McGill asked, at the request of constituents, if meetings could be rotated around the county. Chairman Mike Goolsby suggested rotating the December, January and February meetings.