Superintendents worried about proration

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - For school superintendents it's about as painful as getting a big, fat 'F.'

"It's just crippling to us," said Elmore County School Superintendent Jeff Langham.

Crippling in the sense school leaders have to make some very difficult choices when they don't get the money they thought they were going to get.

By definition proration is the process of cutting programs or jobs when revenues fall short of expectations.

For example, using round numbers.. let's say a school district receives 4 million dollars a month, but is prorated 10%, leaving $3.6 million to operate on. That's when the superintendent has to make up the difference of $400,000.

"It would be the third year in a row and we haven't had proration 3 times before," said Tallassee City School Superintendent Dr. Jim Jeffers.

And therein lies the potential problems these superintendents claim they face this year. Chief among them? Layoffs. Elmore County could lose 58 teachers.

"We haven't pressed the panic button yet. We're trying to be realistic and optimistic at the same time," said Langham.

"Based on the budget we have it's probable," said Dr. Jeffers.

In the Alabama Senate, Senator Hank Sanders told WSFA 12 News if lawmakers follow Governor Bob Riley's projections, 'we will certainly be in proration in my opinion.'

But Sanders added: "I am determined we not go into proration. We must use conservative estimates."

Governor Riley on the other hand says his projections are conservative, 2.3% growth in the education trust fund or $125 million dollars more in revenues.

Complicating all this is the mere fact that you cannot cut teachers' salaries and benefits which make up around 80% of the education budget.

"It's a monster that has continued," said Langham.

A monster that may or may not rear its ugly head. Senator Sanders tells us lawmakers may not get around to crafting the school budget until April.

Governor Riley is also adding $500 million to the mix, money saved from the first stimulus package passed by Congress.

The Elmore County School District along with the Tallassee City School System will hold a special town hall meeting Monday night at 6:30 at the Board of Education office in Wetumpka.

It's a meeting to let residents know about their financial condition.

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