Andalusia schools prepare budget

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2003

The Andalusia City Schools Board of Education met Tuesday night to discuss the financial outlook for the school system as part of its first open budget hearing for Fiscal Year 2004.

During the budget hearing, Superintendent Pete Kelley and Chief Financial Officer Jean Sellers presented the board with the draft budget for the coming year.

"We are presenting a balanced budget," Kelley told the board. "We have had to cut programs to achieve it, but it is balanced. We have cut technology, teacher units and other programs."

The nearly $12 million budget is based on current funding levels, according to both Kelley and Sellers, citing the lack of a state budget from the legislature.

"We are going on what was approved earlier in the year," Kelley said. "Sept. 9 could change the budget, but these are the figures we've been given."

"This budget is based on projected figures," Sellers said. "We won't know for certain until the state presents its final budget. It is fair and balanced based on equal funding to last year's figures."

Although the budget is balanced, both Kelley and board members expressed their concern at the cutting of programs to derive the budget.

"There are a lot of programs we no longer have," Kelley said. "We don't have an art program any more, we've lost other programs that were in place just a few years ago."

Board President Dr. Michael Wells asked about foreign languages, and Kelley said only one French course was being taught - down from previous years, and that Spanish was still available.

"These are important programs to have, but with the financial situation, it's difficult to maintain all of them," Kelley said.

When questioned about what could be done to help offset potential losses in the system's budget, Kelley said support of the governor's tax package is a start.

"When the tax package is passed, we won't have to worry about the financial situation facing the state and our school budgets," he said.

At the conclusion of the budget hearing, the board set the next hearing for August 26 at 6 p.m. at the BOE office behind the old East Three Notch School.

In other business, the board renewed its liability insurance package, something Sellers and Kelley said had actually dropped in price.

"The premiums have decreased this year," Sellers said. "We're fortunate that cost has decreased."

Kelley reiterated that fact.

"The premiums have dropped from $63 to $61, and this is the most affordable available," he said.

The board also received a financial report from Sellers, who told the board that money remained tight, but the system was doing a good job managing its resources.

Sellers also noted the utility bills at all three schools are increasing, but said that appeared to be across the board for all utility customers.

The board also agreed to replace to employees, a bus driver and speech therapist for the system.

Joan Mitchell was employed as the new speech therapist for the school system, and Michael Bush was hired as a new bus driver.

"These are not new hires," Kelley said. "We're replacing positions that were already budgeted."