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School budget ‘best’ for now

By By Kerry Whipple Bean
and Adam Prestridge

The Alabama House passed a bare bones education budget Tuesday, one that local superintendent said was “the best” they could expect in lean times.
Lawmakers have said the budget will protect most teacher jobs — but Smith pointed out that funding teachers does not mean funding education entirely.
Escambia County Schools Superintendent Billy Hines said the budget is “the best we can get considering the economy.”
There are no allocations for such items as teacher supplies or library enhancement, and a limited amount for textbooks.
The education budget will next go to the Senate, which is expected to vote on the issue as early as Thursday.
School officials across the state urged lawmakers this year to pass a realistic budget — one not likely to go into proration next year. Alabama’s education budget is based on projected revenue, and when revenues fall short during a budget year, the state must make cuts.
Hines said he is concerned that the budget passed is based on some projected growth.
Smith said that growth is possible, but he said it would take a major turnaround in the economy for the state to get back to funding levels schools are accustomed to.
This year’s education budget includes some federal stimulus funding, but that money will run out after the next budget year. Even the slight growth projected will not make up for the federal funds supplementing the education budget this year and next year, Smith said.
Escambia County and Brewton City school systems have reserve funds that have helped get them through proration over the past two years.
Smith said he does not expect Brewton City Schools to need to borrow money for operating purposes, as other school systems in the state might do later this year.
School systems are required to carry a one-month operating fund balance, but Smith said he thinks the city schools will end the year with about two weeks’ worth of operating funds.