Proration hits hard, long

Published 8:58 pm Wednesday, December 17, 2008

By Staff
Monday was a rough day for Billy Hines and Lynn Smith.
The two local school superintendents were reeling from the announcement of 12.5 percent proration for Alabama's Education Trust Fund - staggering cuts to their school budgets, the largest in the state in 48 years.
Gov. Bob Riley's announcement that some of the cuts would be buffered by a withdrawal from the state's Rainy Day Fund was welcome, but Smith and Hines know that money is only good for this year.
But while the superintendents are looking at some difficult decisions themselves in coming months, both had good news for the short term: The school systems are in good shape for the current fiscal year. Despite the cuts, both have money in reserve that will offset proration.
While that doesn't take the sting out of future cuts, that solid stewardship of our taxpayer dollars is good news in many ways. Unlike many other school systems across the state, Brewton and Escambia County schools won't have to worry about meeting current payrolls. While times are tight and cuts are coming, both school systems are safe for the time being.
Second, one of the main reasons we have those reserves is that Escambia County taxpayers have been prescient enough to fund education through millage increases and renewals. Several years ago voters approved a 10-mill tax increase, and just last year they renewed a decades-old tax to fund schools.
Local schools wouldn't have been able to build up their reserves “without the citizens foresight in passing taxes,” Hines said.
And what those reserves say about our school systems' attitude toward financial solvency is another thing. Both school boards knew they needed to save for a rainy day, and they did it without sacrificing educational excellence.
That rainy day is here - with a deluge. Although we know even leaner times are ahead, the effort that our school officials have made to save money already gives us faith that they will be able to survive the coming fiscal year.
Yes, there will be difficult decisions ahead. No, there are no easy ways out of the situation.
But we have officials in charge who have the best interest of our children at heart - and who know how to save money without skimping on education.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at

Email newsletter signup