Proration may take bigger toll

Published 9:59 pm Monday, December 15, 2008

School superintendents knew proration was drawing near, but what they didn’t know is how hard it would hit.

When Gov. Bob Riley declared 12.5 percent proration in a press conference Monday, it caused local educators to take a big step back.

“It’s not good,” said Pike County Schools Superintendent Mark Bazzell.

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With a rainy day fund to draw from, Bazzell said he had been hoping proration would be low enough for the funds to cover the shortfall.

“We were hoping that the rainy day fund, once it’s used up, would cover it,” Bazzell said. “But, it doesn’t surprise me that apparently it’s not going to cover it.”

Riley also announced the state would withdraw $218 million from its rainy day fund to help offset the proration. This leaves a net 9 percent impact on school districts and approximately $437 million remaining the rainy day fund.

In the Pike County Schools, a 12.5 percent proration means a $1.7 million cut in state funding. With the help of the rainy day fund, the district only expects to see a drop of $1.2 million in funding. If the rest of the fund is used, Bazzell said, the county schools would lose only $772,000 this year.

In the Troy City Schools, the proration means cutting $1.1 million from the budget, or about $113,352 per month over the next 10 months.

And now, superintendents who were planning on not having to make cuts this year, might have to go in a different direction.

“Everything in the budget is essential. We must eliminate the things that will have the least negative impact on the educational process,” said Troy City Schools Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith. Felton-Smith cited travel as one of the things that could be eliminated with the least negative impact.

“We will have to cut back our expenditures, but there will be no layoffs of

personnel,” she said.

Bazzell said he will focus in the upcoming days on ways to cut back without affecting students “We will start looking at ways we can make additional cuts that do not impact students,” Bazzell said. “We have some positions open we will not fill until we get a little better idea” of what the proration will mean for the district.

Bazzell said of the $1.8 million appropriated to the county schools from the state, they will be cut $1.3 million, and that’s with the help of the rainy day fund.

At the university level, Director of Government Relations Marcus Paramore said he isn’t sure what the amount would mean for Troy University.

“Just getting this number for the first time, I really don’t know what it means for the university as a whole,” Paramore said. “It definitely means we’ll have to be tightening our belts.”

*Additional reporting by Jaine Treadwell