Money trouble gets worse

Published 11:17 pm Monday, December 15, 2008

Things aren’t looking good for school systems around the state. Monday, Gov. Bob Riley announced that schools would be headed into proration with a 12.5-percent education budget cut for the upcoming year. That is significant considering schools haven’t seen these kinds of cuts since 1961.

School Superintendent Keith Moore was surprised to hear the budget cut was so large.

“We were hoping for only a budget cut of 6 percent, but this is much more than that,” Moore said. “We haven’t been able to figure out just how much that is for us.”

Riley is going to cut the proration down to 9 percent by using half of education budget’s rainy day fund. The other half might be used in the second half of the year if it is needed.

Moore, school system Chief Financial Officer Steve Yeargan and the rest of the Chilton County Board of Education are having figure out what that will mean locally, and it isn’t going to be good. It is impossible to say if any job cuts are coming or if any programs will be on the chopping block.

We do know our school board has done an excellent job at handling the system’s finances. When other school districts had to borrow money just to pay the bills, Chilton County was in good enough financial shape that the system’s reserves covered its out-of-pocket expense.

This is part of a massive spending reduction plan Riley has introduced to help cut expenses almost across the board. There are some departments such as public safety where they are unable to make cuts, but Riley appears to have trimmed down our expenses because our revenues have fallen so short. The General Fund budget spending will be cut about 10 percent. A hiring freeze on state employees will also help make up the difference. About 3,000 workers will be cut through attrition.

We hoped that our state wouldn’t come to this point. Our state has fared better than many, but it wasn’t enough to prevent major proration.