County schools would see #036;800,000 from proposed bond

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 27, 2007

Proposed legislation by Sen. Hinton Mitchem (D-Union Grove) that would give K-12 schools $750 million from bonds for construction across Alabama is drawing praise from Gov. Bob Riley and state education officials.

And while Superintendent Mike Looney welcomes the news, any allocated funds received by Butler County from the state would still not be adequate enough for necessary construction at schools in Georgiana, McKenzie and Greenville.

Looney said any amount received by schools would be based on attendance, approximately $250 per student enrolled throughout Butler County, according to officials with the state department of education.

&#8220It looks like it would be around $800,000,” said Looney. &#8220Which is a substantial amount of money. It certainly would be helpful and we would be able to factor that into our plans, but as opposed to the $25 million we need, it's nowhere near enough.”

The Butler County Board of Education is seeking to increase funding at the local level to borrow $25 million for construction at schools across the county. There's an immediate need in Georgiana where the age of Georgiana High School and Robert L. Austin Elementary School have turned the pair of facilities into a financial sinkhole. All county schools - at various degrees - would benefit from the $25 million in funds.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne) said he would definitely be for Hichem's $750 million school construction bill, especially if it involves utilizing existing revenue in the state coffers to pay for it.

&#8220I would not be for it if it involves a new tax,” he said. &#8220But we need some sort of bond issue to put some money into our schools. Our buildings have drastically fallen behind.”

Mitchell said superintendents in the six counties he represents have already contacted him about the funding and specific building needs at each school.

&#8220There's not a single superintendent who doesn't have a specific need inside their county,” he said. &#8220Some may be more real than others, or greater than others. But my job is to look at all the schools in my district and to not make exceptions.”

Gov. Riley, in a prepared statement released on Thursday by communications director Jeff Emerson, said he was a strong advocate of a bond issue for school construction and repairs.

The release stated:

&#8220Governor Riley proposed a bond issue for schools last fall as part of Plan 2010, and last year he proposed a $500 million supplemental appropriations bill for school construction, repairs and technology updates. Unfortunately, the Legislature at that time refused to bring his proposal up for a vote. If legislators now want to join Governor Riley in this effort, than today's announcement is a good, positive step forward.”