Budgets sent to governor

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 12, 2002

Staff report

Alabama’s education budget ­ with a teacher pay raise ­ is on its way to Gov. Don Siegelman, following the House’s approval Thursday of changes made by the Senate.

"I want to thank the Legislature for working hard to pass the education budget and other important education appropriations.

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I’m pleased that the budget includes support for our teachers, for the nation’s best reading

program and for our classrooms, although, I wish we could have achieved the level of funding for higher education I had wanted," Siegelman said in a statement.

Siegelman, who proposed the 3 percent election-year raises earlier in the session, is expected to sign the budget. The budget, which is $101 million larger than this year’s budget, increases funding to universities by 2.9 percent; to two-year colleges by 2.7 percent; and K-12 by 2.5 percent.

University presidents, including Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr. at Troy State, had lobbied the Legislature to restore funding for higher education to 33 percent of the new revenues. This budget sets that level at only 30.6 percent.

The Legislature has also already passed a general fund budget that includes 3 percent raises for state employees.

The teacher pay raise, which had been heavily pushed by Alabama Education Association President Paul Hubbert, is the first pay raise in three years for Alabama teachers.

The $4.2 billion education budget comes a year after the state was forced to prorate the education budget for the last fiscal year.

Also Thursday, Siegelman signed the general fund budget.

"I am pleased that this budget does what is possible under tight budget constraints to keep our families safe, support our seniors and protect Alabama’s children," he said. "However, I wish the Legislature had done as I had asked to ensure a more stable source of recurring revenue by closing certain tax loopholes benefiting big oil companies and big insurance companies."

Some lawmakers and school administrators have expressed concern that the pay raises could force proration again next year. Other funding in the education budget ­ for such items as

maintenance and textbooks ­ is mostly level funded from last year.

Earlier this year, Troy City Schools Superintendent Hank Jones echoed those concerns. "Unless we have a significant increase in revenues

no matter who the governor is

proration is going to be declared," he said. "I’m all for the 3 percent raise, but I have to honestly tell you that I don’t think the money is going to be there for it," he said. "And we’re going to find ourselves in proration before the end of the 2002-2003 school year."