State looks to stimulus to stabilize education funding

Shelby County School’s Superintendent randy Fuller traveled to Montgomery Monday to receive what he said was encouraging news about how the state plans to use a portion of the federal stimulus money.

“It was a very positive meeting,” Fuller said. “The state superintendent (Joe Morton) and Gov. Riley discussed with us the opportunities and options we have now that the stimulus money is available.”

Gov. Riley recently proposed lowering the state’s already prorated education budget by an additional $497 million. That would have meant the elimination of about 3,800 jobs across the state.

Morton, however, told the group of administrators the state planned to infuse its portion of Alabama’s $596.4 million of stimulus money with Title I money to save jobs.

“We’re still in a proration time because we don’t have the revenue stream we’ve had in previous times,” Fuller said. “But with the stimulus money we’re optimistic. It could have been a lot worse.”

Fuller said he and his team of administrators sat down with the school system’s budget in late January and thinned out wherever they could.

The system had to trim about $12.34 million from its budget to meet the mandatory 9 percent proration level. They did so with just under $10.13 million in reserve funds and $2.56 million in cuts.

“In the revised budget we sent in, we used our reserves, and we also went in line item by line item cutting what we could do without,” he said. “Through those efforts, we met the new budget.”

Line items cut from the system’s budget included areas of professional development, travel, maintenance and transportation costs. Fuller said the system also made an effort to not replace retiring teachers or those that moved out of the system. Fuller said he hopes attrition will continue to make a difference in salary costs.

“We’ll continue to monitor our revenue,” Fuller said. “Hopefully, the state will invest the money in a way that will keep us running for the next two years. We hope the revenue stream improves, but that’s the question mark.”