Closing AMS will save $446K

Published 12:13 am Thursday, July 21, 2011

A report by the state education department shows the Andalusia City School System could save an estimated $446,000 in staff and utility costs by closing the middle school as an education facility.

However, superintendent Ted Watson said those savings would not be immediately seen and would probably “come closer to $300,000” by eliminating the duplication of staff and services.

On Monday, board members approved a capital plan that will close Andalusia Middle School as an education facility, sending sixth graders to the elementary school and seventh and eighth graders to the high school.

There is no exact date set on when the plan will go into effect, but the earliest would be the 2013-2014 school year.

Watson told board members that a new state department of education analysis report said that by reassigning the students onto two campuses, it will save between $300,000 to $400,000 a year.

However, Watson said that though the eventual savings would be $400,000 annually, the change will be “gradual.”

According to the analysis report, there are some $330,319 in duplicated staff costs.

Among those are locally funded certified staff, support staff, principal, assistant principal, secretaries, bookkeepers and other staff.

However, Watson said that those positions would not be immediately cut and would be eliminated through means of attrition once the changes are made.

Additionally, the state’s plan includes a savings of $116,039 in facility operating costs, such as $3,000 for telephones; $500 for postage; $65,602 for electricity; $10,000 for natural gas and $3,000 for sewerage and water.

However, as part of the capital plan, the AMS building would become a new home for the board’s central office, serve as a professional development facility for staff, provide additional storage and possibly a preschool or Head Start facility.

“You have to remember that in doing this, we won’t have the present central office open,” he said. “So that will alleviate some of the utility costs.”

Still, there will be construction costs for a new kindergarten early learning center at the elementary school and a seventh and eighth grade wing at the high school.

Watson said the cost would be significant to build the new facilities, but said he did not have an estimate at the present time.

Watson said that the system’s current long-term debt for the elementary school will be paid off in 2014, and that there are financing options for the new facilities.

“We can also sell bonds to help pay for the new facilities,” he said. “I think the time is right for this project.”

Watson said the greatest concern of the administration and the school board is the students.

“We want to afford them the best opportunities possible,” he said. “We think by doing this it will allow us some flexibility in doing that.”