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Bentley not sure if proration will be needed

A school year without proration?

Gov. Robert Bentley told state school board members Thursday that he is not convinced the state school budget will need the mid-year cuts known as proration.

But Brewton City Schools Superintendent Lynn Smith said he would be surprised if the cuts were not necessary.

“They’re not going to have enough money,” he said. “The longer they put it off, the more you get cut (toward the end of the year).”

Bentley told the state school board Thursday that if proration is called, he expected it to be no more than 3 percent.

In the previous fiscal year, school budgets were cut about 7 percent at the beginning of the year and by 2 percent at the end of the year.

And in the past two years, the state education budget has been bolstered by federal funds — first from the federal recovery act and then from a jobs bill which was used to help keep teachers on the payroll.

The federal recovery act funds won’t be available next year. While jobs bill funding could be carried over next year, Smith said Brewton City Schools likely will use it this year.

In a video Smith showed Brewton City School Board members Monday, Deputy state Superintendent Craig Pouncey said the next fiscal year will be the first year of “no options” to help make up the shortfall.

“When 2012 starts, many school boards will have exhausted their reserve funds,” Pouncey said in the video, produced by the Alabama Association of School Boards. “Boards of education are going to be faced with difficult decisions. It does not appear there is any groundswell to come up with other revenue options.”

Bentley told state school officials on Thursday to consider looking at more cuts next year.

State officials have said they expect some growth in the economy this year. The education budget is funded mainly through state sales tax revenue.

“There’s going to be some growth,” Smith said. “But it would take some miracle” to see enough growth to avoid some cuts this year.

Bentley said he would evaluate the budget quickly to determine if proration is necessary.

“The worst thing that can happen to a local school board is to declare proration so we sure don’t want to do that unless we have to,” Bentley told school board members, according to The Huntsville Times. “If we’re going to have to do it, it would be better to do it now than towards the end of the year.”