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Local schools could see fewer cuts

In a time when school systems were hit with the biggest deficit of 48 years, local superintendents had been expecting major budget cuts.

But after the Senate passed a budget exceeding this year’s spending, the story may soon change.

“Under the circumstances, it looks like a very good budget for us,” said Pike County Schools Superintendent Mark Bazzell. “It’s certainly not perfect, but under the circumstances it’s not bad.”

While Troy City Schools Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith isn’t getting her hopes too high, she said this version of the budget is much better than she originally planned.

“I feel better, but the reality is we’ve got to wait and see what the final numbers are,” Felton-Smith said.

The budget still has to pass the House of Representatives before meeting final approval, but the version that stands now looks to keep teacher positions and state programs like the Alabama Reading Initiative, Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative and ACCESS.

After Gov. Bob Riley proposed a budget at the beginning of the Legislative session, schools were anticipating losing up to 15 teachers in the next school year.

But the new budget will keep divisors level with this year’s numbers, saving about 10 to 12 jobs for Pike County Schools alone. Felton-Smith said she isn’t sure exactly how the numbers will affect Troy City’s budget yet.

“We were anticipating at one point before the stimulus money losing between 10 to 12 teaching units,” Bazzell said. “If we’re only going to lose about one, that’s huge for our school system and huge for all school systems across the state.”

The budget passed unanimously in the Senate Tuesday, won’t be completely without cuts.

Bazzell said schools may be looking at losing state money for instructional supplies, professional development and textbooks.

Felton-Smith said when it’s all said and done, stimulus money may be able to compensate for some of what will be lost from the state.

“We’re going to see some cuts, but until we get the final budget we don’t know,” Felton-Smith said. “When we factor in the stimulus funds under Title 1, IDEA and stabilization, we hope that will help us to maintain the number of staff members that we have this year.”

The education budget passed in the Senate is $6.3 billion, $418 million higher than the prorated spending levels.