Budget cuts programs, saves jobs
Published 12:56 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2009
As Alabama lawmakers inch closer this week to passing an education budget, school officials across the state are breathing a sigh of relief.
They are right to do so; the budget, while it makes cuts in many programs, will likely save most education jobs.
But the budget was also buffered by a huge influx of cash from the federal governments stimulus plan. Next year, that money won’t be available — and unless the economy improves drastically in the next 12 months, we’ll be right back were we started when lawmakers meet in 2010.
In Brewton and Escambia County, we are lucky.
We have school boards and administrators that have been so prudent with money that reserve funds have helped fill the gaps during this year’s proration.
We have an electorate that believes so much in education that voters have passed tax referendums and renewals to support schools.
We have charitable trusts that have fed thousands of dollars into both systems to upgrade and improve facilities and programs. Just last week, the Escambia County School Board accepted a donation for a two-classroom building from the Curtis Finlay Foundation.
But we also need a Legislature that will stand up and make major changes in the way that we budget not only for education but for the state’s General Fund.
Alabama has always budgeted based on projections — and you can bet that to avoid making too many people mad, lawmakers often make those projections a little too rosy.
We need to budget based on historic revenue growth, not pie-in-the-sky hopes. Those projections make it harder for schools to make the decisions they need to make to provide the best education for our children, not to mention the headaches caused for the General Fund that runs the rest of the state.
We squeaked by this year, with Uncle Sam’s help. Next year we won’t be so lucky — but perhaps that will finally force the tough decisions that will help change our legislative budget methods for good.