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Schools face 7.5-percent proration

The Chilton County School System, along with the rest of the state, will have to deal with 7.5-percent proration in the new fiscal year beginning Thursday.

Gov. Bob Riley made the announcement Tuesday in the wake of a shortfall in the state’s Education Trust Fund.

“Given the state of the economy, we’ve anticipated for several months now that the education budget would enter fiscal year 2010 in proration, but it’s still very unfortunate and I wish it wasn’t necessary,” Riley said. “Unlike the federal government, we cannot run deficits. Revenues are not at the level necessary to avoid spending cuts. With less revenue coming in and the escalating costs of employee health insurance, there’s no way to avoid it.”

The 7.5-percent of proration may not be too bad news for Chilton County. Chief Financial Officer Steve Yeargan has said the system could handle up to 8 percent proration for the fiscal year.

The board will likely use its reserve money to cover the state cuts. There is currently about $3.4 million in the reserves, which would have been completely zapped up by 8-percent proration.

Statewide, the fiscal year 2010 education budget will be $5.3 billion. To put that in context, education spending by the state was $4.2 billion in 2003 and reached a record high of $6.7 billion in 2008.

Costs of health insurance for education workers have skyrocketed. In 2009, health insurance costs for education workers were $1.135 billion — an increase of 72 percent since 2003, when the state paid $660 million.

As he has done before, Riley is urging lawmakers to protect funding for education initiatives that have proven they work to improve student achievement, such as the Alabama Reading Initiative, the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, ACCESS Distance Learning and First Class Pre-K.

Attempts to reach Chilton County Superintendent Keith Moore and Yeargan Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.