School spending cuts deeper than expected

Published 10:04 am Monday, December 22, 2008

Most leaders in Alabama school districts expected a shortfall in funding, thanks to less-than-anticipated revenues in state coffers.

However, the proration amount declared by Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, which amounts to reduced funding for school districts of as much as 12.5 percent, is a particularly difficult blow.

Cindy Warner, spokeswoman for Shelby County Schools, said Shelby Superintendent Randy Fuller and his leadership team have had preliminary discussions on dealing with the drastic decrease in funding, but haven╒t finalized a plan.

“Because this happened right at Christmas, we haven’t yet finalized an in-depth strategy. At this point, we know it’s going to be significant for us to reduce our budget and make up the difference,” Warner said.

She said Fuller and his team will put together that concrete plan as soon as returning from Christmas break. Last month, Fuller said potential areas for spending cuts include professional development, travel and delayed maintenance.

School districts produce their operating budgets in the spring, based on what they are told are anticipated revenues from the state. When state revenues come in lower than expected, county school districts must scramble to try to make up the short fall.

Alabama school districts are now required to submit new budgets to the state by Jan. 30.

Riley last week declared proration, or cuts in spending, amounting to 12.5 percent. Declaring proration has allowed Riley to tap into the state’s rainy day fund, from which he has accessed $218 million, about half the amount in the fund, reducing the cuts across the board to about 9 percent.