• 52°

City BOE budget outlook bleak

Projected cuts by the state regarding education funding have not painted a very pretty picture for schools and school systems in Alabama for 2004, and Andalusia City Board of Education Superintendent Pete Kelley said his system is another one of those facing some very difficult cuts in the near future.

Kelley updated the board on the cuts the system is facing during its regular meeting Wednesday evening.

During a report on the system's financial update, Kelley noted that the school system is projected to be approximately $260,000 in the red at the end of the current year based on the system's budget, and then the discussion moved to the cuts the system is facing.

He said during a recent meeting with board member Dr. Michael Wells, they felt there would be a good opportunity to balance the local budget and meet the state cuts with the system only reducing its teaching force by around nine teachers and reducing the support staff by two.

"During spring break last week we received some information from the state department of education, and they have changed the divisors and (the percentage and number of cuts) has increased to 13 ," said Kelley. "The state is cutting us eight teacher units over what we earned for this school year. Every school system in the state is affected by it because they came in and changed the divisors."

He said since the divisors were changed, this will result in the loss of an additional 880 or so classroom teachers across the state and around nine are in the Andalusia system.

"We have lost three support people and eight teacher units from state funding," said Kelley. "We have to break it down by school and Andalusia Elementary School lost 4.75. Andalusia Middle School lost an additional 0.66 and then Andalusia High School lost three flat out. So it actually comes out to be more than eight."

Kelley said in order to balance the system's budget, the system will need to cut the locally funded teacher units in half.

"This would be a total of 13 teachers and three support personnel that we would have to release at the end of the year," said Kelley. "This is a proposed budget, and I believe the legislative session ends June 6. (School system representatives) are to meet back in Montgomery on June 25 to receive our final true budget from the state. There is not any hope, from people you talk to, that it is going to be any better."

He added there may be a special session within the regular session in May, but said whatever happens at the session will likely not help the system any.

"It's believed we are going to have to have tax reform and this will have to go before a vote of the people, and it may be the fall before (such a vote) would take place," said Kelley. "When we begin school in the fall, our classrooms are going to be full and 30 (students in a class) will not be uncommon and it could be more than that."

Board member Danny Posey asked how if the divisors had been established by the legislature, how the state department of education could arbitrarily without any legislation change those because money is tight.

"Mr. Posey, I may not be able to answer that question," said Kelley in response to Posey's inquiry. "I am sure the legislature had to be involved in that, and (the state department of education, a legislative education committee and the Alabama Education Association) are working hand in hand with Gov. (Bob) Riley's people and with each other, and each group has the other groups' support."

He noted that every system in the state would likely be increasing the size of classes because of the cuts.

The board ultimately approved a motion to consider two to three options to try and handle its own personnel and financial dilemma.

"The cuts don't end with a person losing his or her job, but the family that person is responsible for and (the cuts) won't be pleasant," said Kelley.

In other business discussed at Wednesday's meeting, the Andalusia City Board of Education:

Approved adopting a board policy serving English Language Learners and a Recruitment Employment Plan as part of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Heard from Kelley that the board will be making a presentation regarding the R.E.A.C.H. program to the Andalusia City Council during its workshop session on April 1 at 5 p.m.

Heard an update from Kelley regarding various items of construction.

Approved the adoption of the textbooks approved by a local textbook committee.

Approved the transfer of Andalusia High School Special Education Teacher Amanda King to the same position at Andalusia Elementary School retroactively effective March 25.

Set the date of the next meeting to April 21 at 6 p.m. at the central office.

Approved the minutes of the Feb. 24 regular meeting.