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School funding bleak

Local school officials said they were not surprised to hear Gov. Bob Riley's gloomy outlook on funding for education in his State of the State address Tuesday night.

&uot;The State Department of Education has been preparing us for fiscal shortcomings and we knew it was coming,&uot; Troy City Schools Superintendent Hank Jones said.

Pike County Schools Superintendent Mark Bazzell said the only new thing Riley introduced was the percentage of cuts.

Before the governor's address, schools expected a 5 percent cut in funds.

Riley increased that number to 6 percent.

&uot;That one percent is going to cost us another $100,000,&uot; Bazzell said.

He added that Pike County had enough money in reserve to meet next year's needs, but that is not the case for all of Alabama's schools.

&uot;We're blessed to have had the one penny sales tax for the past two years,&uot; Bazzell said.

"Other school systems haven't been as lucky."

Jones said the cuts could cost Troy City Schools anywhere from $750,000 to $1 million. Jones said his school system will be reevaluating their programs and extra-curricular activities and try to find a less expensive way of funding the necessary ones.

&uot;It's going to be a hard financial year for all of the school systems,&uot; he said.

Jones and Bazzell applauded Riley for pointing out the state government's financial problems and for condemning the tax system.

&uot;I thought Governor Riley did an excellent job laying out the problems of the state,&uot; Bazzell said.

Jones said Riley made excellent points about the immorality of the state's taxing system.

&uot;People are being taxed at a level they certainly should not be taxed at,&uot; Jones said.

He added that the legislature needs a plan that will fix all aspects of the state government.

&uot;There is a severe crisis in the general fund, not just education,&uot; he said.

&uot;It's going to be a long fiscal year in 2003 and 2004.&uot;

Neither superintendent was disappointed that Riley did not go into specific solutions for the funding crisis.

&uot;If it was loaded with specifics, too many people would have torn it apart,&uot; Jones said.

&uot;I know he's commissioned a number of groups to study the issues,&uot; Bazzell said.

He is confident that when the governor feels like they have reached some type of solution, he will let the state know.

Riley has around six months to reach a solution for next year before the fiscal year starts again in October.

Both superintendents agree the outlook of Alabama's education fund looks hard and bleak.