Smith: More cuts likely

Published 10:33 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2009

By By Kerry Whipple Bean

Brewton City Schools Superintendent Lynn Smith said he expects the governor to declare proration on the upcoming budget within the first month of the fiscal year.
School officials have been told to expect cuts of about 6 percent, Smith said Monday at a school board budget hearing.
Schools across the state have spent all of 2009 in proration, a declaration of budget cuts necessary when state revenues designated for education fall short of expectations.
Gov. Bob Riley told The Birmingham News Monday that he did not expect to declare any more proration in the current fiscal year.
The state Legislature passed a new education budget during its regular session in the spring, but Smith said revenues already are not keeping up with those projections.
The state cut funding for a variety of supplies — from the teachers’ annual supply stipend for their classrooms to common purchases such as copier supplies and service.
As it stands now, the city school board is budgeting to end the first month of the fiscal year — October — with a reserve fund of about $100,000 less than it will start the year with.
The state requires school districts to keep one month’s worth of operating funds in reserve, but that law has been waived because of proration, Smith said.
Proration would cost the school system about $60,000 per percentage of proration.
Federal revenue — mainly from stimulus funds — will help boost the city schools budget over the next two years, Smith said, but that money will be gone in two years unless the economy improves.
City schools were allocated state funding for 68.96 teacher units, down by 5.48 teacher units rom last year. Teacher units are awarded based on enrollment, which has been falling at Brewton City Schools over the past few years.
But Smith said he believes enrollment will stabilize this year.
With the infusion of federal funds, city schools will not need any local funds to pay for teacher units this year. “That’s a little unusual for us,” Smith said.
Despite the budget cuts, Smith said the school board is on track to build a new middle school, which will be paid for with a bond issue and paid back with a combination of capital outlay funds and revenue from a 10 mill tax for schools passed about five years ago. The school board has been socking that 10 mill tax revenue away to help pay the debt service on the new school.