Schools pleased with possible budget

Published 10:16 pm Thursday, April 23, 2009

Local school systems are backing the $6.2 billion state education budget that would mean an extra $6 million for transportation and another $108 million for current expenses statewide.

The budget, which passed the Senate Tuesday, was approved by the House Education Appropriations Committee Wednesday. It will face final vote in the House next week.

“As always, I must wait for those final numbers,” said Andalusia City Schools superintendent Dr. Beverly McAnulty. “However, the proposed budget is probably the best we can get, and I’m very pleased. It’s a good budget for Andalusia City Schools considering what we were looking at. It will definitely help us save jobs and continue to support programs.”

While the proposed budget includes $513 million in federal stimulus money to ensure that most education employees will keep their jobs, there are cuts included in the spending plan under debate among legislators. Among those cuts include reduced funding for distance learning and the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) as well as classroom supplies — programs that are heavily utilized throughout each of the three school systems.

Recently, local teachers sent out a plea to parents of children in AMSTI schools to contact their legislators and ask them to continue to provide funding to the program.

“Because we are proposed to be funded at the prorated 2009 budget, we will still see some shortfalls and have some tough decisions to make,” McAnulty said. “Remember, over the 2009 and 2010 budgets, Andalusia will have been cut $1.6 million. Also what we have to consider is that the stimulus money is only for two years; that creates a ‘funding cliff.’

“Two things that Andalusia is going to have to look at closely are meeting our capital debt obligations and our local (teaching) units.”

Opp City Schools superintendent Michael Smithart believes the budget passed by the Senate is “best for Opp City Schools.”

“That version restored the divisors to their current level and that should protect teaching jobs except in those systems with declining enrollment,” he said. “We are, unfortunately, one of those systems. We don’t know an exact number yet, but hopefully we will soon.”

Smithart said the OCS will operate in the 2010 fiscal year on more than $1 million less than what was received in the 2008 fiscal year.

“In a system our size that is pretty difficult to manage, but we are doing it and we will continue to do it,” he said.

Under state law, school systems must announce teacher positions by the end of May for the upcoming school year. The ACS plans to make its recommendations at its May 19 meeting.