Schools may face $800K cuts in ‘13

Published 12:03 am Thursday, February 23, 2012

While local educators are hopeful Gov. Robert Bentley won’t declare proration this fiscal year, cuts to the FY2013 budget means school systems in Covington County could face losses totaling more than $800,000.

At the beginning of this legislative session, Bentley announced a shortfall in the General Fund budget of 25 to 30 percent. To help make up some of that difference, he has proposed streamlining the issuing of state licenses, switching to more modern, but less expensive technology and combining some state agencies to avoid duplications.

The outlook for the state education budget is different from the General Fund budget. Revenue for this year’s $5.63 billion education budget is running $23 million short; however, Bentley said he believes the state should be able to manage that without the governor having to order an across-the-board spending cut.

In 2013, the budget for schools can’t exceed $5.48 billion, a drop of nearly $152 million, or nearly 3 percent from this year’s spending.

For local school systems, that 3 percent decrease equates to more than $500,000 for the Covington County schools; more than $160,000 for Andalusia’s and more than $200,000 for Opp’s.

“I’ve heard to be prepared for 3 percent cuts,” said Shauna Robertson, the county school’s chief financial officer. “I’m not clear whether it was meant as proration or cuts to the FY 2013 budget, but for us, that’s a little over $500,000 – funds I’ve got set aside for textbooks.

“We have an upcoming math adoption that is going to be very costly, and next year, the literature adoption is anticipated to be just as pricey,” she said. “Since the legislature only allocated $50,000 for textbooks this year, we need these extra funds to desperately replace the old books that are falling apart.”

Andalusia Superintendent Ted Watson said at a 2 percent cut, it would mean an estimated $160,000 for the system’s three schools.

“I’m hearing lots of discussions, but it’s probably a little early to speculate as so much is being circulated about budget line items,” Watson said.

Opp Superintendent Michael Smithart agreed with Robertson.

At a recent board meeting, Smithart announced the board was hopeful that the current growth rate in the Education Trust Fund would be sufficient to avoid proration this fiscal year.

“In 2013, though, if we’re looking at a 2.7 percent cut, that means a loss of $217,000 for Opp City Schools,” he said. “While we’re within our acceptable ranges of revenues and expenses to budget, (it’s going to be a) challenge going forward (to) continue to balance a quality education with our available resources.”

Robertson said even though there are rumors of proration, she’s hopeful that the economy is picking up, meaning additional sales tax revenue for school systems.

“At my last conference, Dr. Addy, a University of Alabama economist, gave a presentation that pointed to positive economic growth, and I hope he is right,” she said. “So, at this point, I’m thinking that the 2013 budget will be cut significantly.”