Local schools will still feel proration’s pinch

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Staff Writer

Alabama’s schoolchildren may be getting more money than students in the state’s colleges and universities, but the two local school systems will still be feeling the pinch.

Leaders at Alabama’s institutions of higher learning have been arguing against the 11 percent proration handed down by Gov. Don Siegelman that, they say, is not fair because of the 3.7 percent reduction to school systems educating students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

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But, those cuts in K-12 are not equal.

Recently, local school superintendents were told about their cuts ­ 4.13 percent for the Pike County Schools and 3.80 for the Troy City Schools.

The governor’s cuts among the state 128 school systems ranged from the lowest of 2.60 percent for the city of Birmingham to the 4.58 percent for Greene County.

According to State Finance Director Henry Mabry, systems that use most of their state funds for teacher salaries were given smaller percentage cuts.

Pike County Superintendent John Key is already preparing to lay off a minimum of four teachers.

"We only have ­ at this point ­ four teacher units above what the state gives us," Key said.

"You will see many more school districts in academic and financial trouble," Key said, predicting what the cuts will cause across the state.

Non-salary money is still being cut by more than 11 percent, which the same number for higher education.

Overall, the county school system will experience $800,000 in cuts, he said. Add another $163,324 hit to transportation funds.

"It’s the equivalent of $1 million," Key said, explaining $13,566 for fleet renewal was taken away after the school system had already borrowed the money.

A decline in sales tax receipts is also hurting schools systems like Pike County.

"We’re losing local dollars at a time when we can’t afford it," Key said.

He points to a history of financial problems in the educational system as the problem.

"In Alabama, we’ve never funded schools appropriately ­ never," Key said.

Hank Jones, superintendent of the Troy City Schools, admits the 3.80 percent won’t hurt the three-school system as much as the 4.13 percent cuts to Pike County schools.

"We’re not going to be as negatively impacted as the Pike County School System," Jones said. "But, we are going to have to cut some programs."

Jones said he is working with others in the schools system to make cuts without "severely impacting the students."

Cuts in the other current expense money will likely be one of the biggest impacts on the school system, Jones said of the money used to offset increases in utilities, which he doesn’t see decreasing anytime soon.

"OCE will impact us forever," Jones said of the estimated $200,000 to $300,000 loss.

The recent budget cuts are the result of across-the-board proration declared by the governor in February. Battles between higher education and K-12 led to the current plan.