State tells BOE to expect $1 Million cut
By By Paul Keane
Four days, $1.25 million in lost revenue.
Escambia County Superintendent of Schools Melvin "Buck" Powell received a double blow on both sides of the weekend – learning on Friday that his district should prepare for another 5 percent cut in state funding, then learning that the City of Atmore is planning to cut more than $250,000 in school funding from a city sales tax ordinance that was passed nearly 40 years ago.
"(State Superintendent) Ed Richardson called me on Friday and informed me that we needed to plan for another 5 percent cut in funding," Powell said before the start of Monday night's Atmore City Council meeting. "That means another $1 million in funding being cut out of next year's budget."
Powell said the district was already projecting a $5 million funding shortfall through proration, and that another $1 million would mean possible personnel cuts. Powell and his staff have been conducting town hall meetings in Brewton and Flomaton to discuss the funding crisis and what can be done about it.
The final of the three meetings will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 6 at Escambia County High School. After that meeting, the Board of Education will meet later in the month to make a formal proposal on local funding, with that proposal including the possibility of raising ad valorem (property) taxes and/or sales taxes.
"About the only thing we can do right now is look at cutting personnel," Powell said. "About 85 percent of our costs are personnel."
Powell said that non-tenured positions would be looked at first, but he hopes that attrition through retirements, job changes and other actions would take care of some of the burden.
"The big thing is that you can look to cut in grades K-6, and you can shuffle some people around to help with your budget," Powell said. "But when you get to band, chemistry, choir, calculus and programs like that, it is tougher to make cuts and shuffle people around.
"That is where the hard parts are going to come in."