MPS: Out of money by start of new school year

Montgomery Public School Superintendent Barbara Thompson says the system is burning through reserves.
Montgomery Public School Superintendent Barbara Thompson says the system is burning through reserves.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Montgomery Public School officials will soon be in a predicament. Proration and sluggish tax revenues have depleted the system's financial reserves and MPS officials expect reserves to be dry by August.

Now, they're hoping the State Board of Education will go easy on them since technically they're breaking the law by having no reserves.

The State Board of Education requires each school system in Alabama to have at least one month's worth of operating funds in its reserve account.

"In these economic times, that's just not possible," says State Superintendent, Dr. Joe Morton.

Morton understands the crunch Montgomery and many other systems face.

"We've been through three years of proration and quite honestly the economy is not rebounding."

For Montgomery Public Schools, one month's operating costs equals $18 million dollars.

Right now, school Superintendent Barbara Thompson says the system still has a little money.

"Somewhere between $2 million and about $2.5 million."

But at a budget hearing a few weeks ago administrators estimated even that would be gone by the time school starts.

Despite the dry account Morton says it's similar to other districts.

"Montgomery County, I don't think is any worse than 40 or 50 or 60 other systems in this state."

Just recently the state was forced to take over the financially struggling Coosa and Sumter county systems.

"We had to step in because banks wouldn't loan them anymore money."

And while Morton didn't mention anything like that happening with MPS, Thompson says they are working together.

"We have to submit a plan of how we plan to get money back in our budget in terms of what we're trying to do," says Thompson.

But knowing money is scarce is worrisome.

"How are we going to make it? I mean, it really is sad," says MPS parent, Sandra Mooney.

"I don't think the financial situation for the school or anybody else is going to get any better anytime soon," adds MPS Grandparent, John Smith.

Dr. Morton says he hopes parents understand operating public schools right now is not only difficult in Alabama, but nationwide.

He says the state board is giving leniency on the one month's operating cost requirement simply because there's no other choice.

MPS officials say they will get an update on the system's financial status at Tuesday's board meeting.

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