Schools slapped with last-minute proration

Published 6:47 pm Monday, October 5, 2009

By By Kerry Whipple Bean
New education cuts will be tough, but both city and county school officials said their budgets will survive the latest round of proration.
Two days before the new fiscal year began, Gov. Bob Riley on Tuesday declared the Education Trust Fund will start the year at 7.5 percent proration.
Proration will cost county schools $1.9 million, while Brewton city schools will lose about $450,000.
Hines said school officials will have to crunch the numbers, but local reserve funds can help cover the cuts.
Brewton City Schools Superintendent Lynn Smith said his system will weather the cuts — but it won’t be easy.
Shortfalls in state tax revenue require the cuts, Riley said in a statement.
According to Riley’s office, health care costs of teachers and other education workers have skyrocketed in recent years. In 2009, health insurance costs were $1.135 billion — an increase of 72 percent since 2003, when the state paid $660 million.
Smith said city schools were already trying to make cuts this year based on the current budget. Each percentage of proration cuts just more than $60,000 from Brewton City Schools’ state funding allocation.
School systems are normally required to keep a fund balance equal to one month’s operating expenses, but those regulations are suspended during proration.
Smith said city schools would likely now end the year with about one week’s operating expenses next September.
With 7.5 percent proration, the fiscal year 2010 education budget will be $5.3 billion. Riley’s office said education spending by the state was $4.2 billion in 2003 and reached a record high of $6.7 billion in 2008.
Hines pointed out that with proration called twice last year, state funding for schools has been cut by 18.5 percent over two fiscal years.
This year, with proration declared even before the fiscal year begins, schools will at least be able to spread out the cuts, he said.
Riley said he was urging state lawmakers to protect funding for education programs such as the Alabama Reading Initiative, the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative and ACCESS Distance Learning.

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