Alabama educators fear more budget cuts

Published 10:47 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Some Alabama leaders expect more education spending cuts because the Gulf oil spill damaged state tax revenues and the state economy hasn’t recovered from the recession as quickly as anticipated.

Gov. Bob Riley hopes to get through the end of the current budget year Sept. 30 without increasing the 7.5 percent cut that public education has already endured.

But Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, said most school leaders “are not going to be shocked” if Riley has to cut another 2 percent.

“I don’t think you can cover what it looks like the shortfall might be,” he said.

The reduction in the current budget forced schools to cut back on supplies, delay repairs and postpone filling vacant positions. School administrators worry about what would happen if it is cut another 1 or 2 percent.

“If that was the case, that would be devastating to my system in Henry County and others,” said Henry County Superintendent Dennis Coe, who’s also president-elect of the School Superintendents of Alabama.

Without any additional cuts, Coe said, his rural system in southeast Alabama expects to finish the fiscal year Sept. 30 with its reserve fund down to six days’ worth of expenses. An additional 2 percent cut in late August or September “would bankrupt our system,” he said Tuesday.

Alabama’s current education budget was supposed to be $5.7 billion, but the governor had to cut it the 7.5 percent when it took effect last Oct. 1 because the state’s economy had slowed down worse than the Legislature and governor had anticipated. The budget shrank to $5.3 billion.

Riley said it’s too early to make predictions about the new $5.5 billion education budget that starts Oct. 1.

“A lot depends on the claim we have filed with BP,” he said.