Wiregrass: Henry County Schools struggle to stay above water, look to voters to help

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

Headland, AL (WSFA) - Budget shortfalls have made this a difficult year for Alabama schools, especially Henry County Schools.

Superintendent Dennis Coe said, "I don't think we've received this magnitude of cuts since World War II."

Financially, the system has taken a beating in recent years, then came proration.  Coe said, "It seems like everywhere we turn, we get more and more bad news, from not only the state, but from Washington as well."

Now, the system has been forced to dip into its reserve funds.  Coe says they've been forced to use those funds just to pay bills and to keep folks employed.  And what's worse, he says they anticipate that the reserve will be depleted by the end of this school year.

But, there is hope for the financially strapped school system.  The special election to vote on two taxes, that could bring in much needed funds, is set for the end of the month.

The first is simply a renewal of an existing tax that will cover things like utility bills and renovation projects.  The second Is a new tax to help fund the schools extracurricular activities, more specifically the Navy JROTC,

JROTC Instructor Major Danny Odom says if the tax doesn't pass, that will be it.  After 38 years of history in Henry county, it will be closed In Headland and Abbeville High Schools.

Once they're gone, the schools can never get them back.

Administrators and students say the vote will test the hearts of the community.

Platoon Commanding Officer Megan Johns, a student at Headland High School, says she hopes the community won't just think of it as money and taxes.  She hopes they'll remember the students, and how much the program has benefitted them and means to them.

And Superintendent Coe says, after the West Point Pepperrell Plant closed, the school system is now the largest employer in the county.  He says, education is now the business of the county, and he hopes the community will rally behind that.

The special election will take place on September 29th.  Until then, the future of the schools are left hanging in the balance