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Budget just won't budge

By By Connie Nowlin Managing editor
Budget hearings began Thursday for the Escambia County Board of Education.
The system has a proposed budget of $19,285,911. Of that figure, the state is expected to kick in its share of $17, 303,551, and the local match is the remainder, almost $2 million.
The largest portion of the budget is for salaries, at $11 million, followed by benefits at more than $3 million.
The system is funded for almost 274 teachers, 10 principals, 2.5 assistant principals and about 20 other instructional staff members.
The dollars are placed by unit rather than by human staff count. The unit count is arrived at by a formula involving student-teacher ratios, which are set by the state.
To get by in a tight budget year, staff at the central office has been cut to 12. Members of that staff that retired or left were not replaced. Annual budget for that office is $136, 794.
Other schools in the system:
A.C. Moore Elementary, 314 students, $1,123, 853.
Escambia County High School, 641 students, $1,927,674.
Escambia County Middle School, 708 students, $1,983, 337.
Flomaton Elementary School, 427 students, $ 1,450,993.
Flomaton High School, 256 students, $ 893,813
Huxford Elementary School, 276 students, $ 1,019,736
Pollard McCall Junior High School, 169 students, $622,199.
Rachael Patterson Elementary School, 490 students, $2,086,932
W.S. Neal Elementary School, 506 students, $1,972,456.
W.S. Neal Middle School, 432 students, $1,237,681.
W.S. Neal High School, 375 students, $1,205,306.
A school that has more students may have a lower budget because of the number of faculty and staff at that facility with higher degrees, such as a master's or doctorate.
Each school system is required to help fund its own schools, to the tune of 10 mils. That is usually collected as an ad valorum tax. The hitch is that in Escambia County, the tax has been set at 7 mils, with the difference made up by a tax on natural gas well production.
During the boom years of production, that was good, said Superintendent of Schools Buck Powell. But now the production has fallen off, and so have the dollars collected.
Powell said during an August interview that those local dollars are gone and the outlook is dim for the board if the tax reform bill does not pass.
He said at that time that in the instance that the board will be forced to ask for the full 10 mills from county residents. That will require a vote, and Powell expects it to happen before the end of the year.
If it fails, he said, the board may have to consider other methods of balancing the budget, including the possibility of closing some schools.