State: Schools to face tough decisions

Published 11:47pm Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Representatives from the Alabama Department of Education came before the Selma City School board Tuesday during its called work session to discuss the school system’s finances among others.

State chief of staff Warren Craig Pouncey and Dennis Coe spoke about proposed cuts to the state’s educational budget, teacher/support personnel job cuts and the financial options currently available.

“School districts all across the state right now are in the process of making plans for next year,” Pouncey said. “We’re hoping that after the conference committee [Wednesday], the Senate and the House will agree on a budget. Right now it looks like we’re only going to be subjected to losing about 350 teaching units.”

The system, Pouncey said, had adequate funds to cover the debt of the new high school, with construction set to be complete by May 24.

“We were fortunate enough to get some of the preferred financing from the stimulus package [under President Obama], and Selma got a heck of a deal [loans at 1 percent interest rate],” Pouncey said. “We were very fortunate.”

With state budget cuts consistent for the past three years and past indecisiveness on issues between members, Pouncey said those two situations could “adversely affect the overall financial condition of the district.”

“We realize that two years ago we had a significant number of locally-funded employees and we tried to work that down,” Pouncey said. “What I’ve provided the board with is … the information that was sent in to us in October, showing each certified person and each non-certified person, by fund source, at the school that they are currently working at.”

In the 2012 budget, Pouncey said the system currently earned 255.91 state-funded positions. There are currently 274.16 certified employees.

“State earned people are certified teachers, librarians, counselors, assistant principals and principals,” Pouncey said. “That shows we’re just about a little over 20 units over in what you’ve earned.”

Certified employees also include reading coaches, who are employed in all eight of the city’s elementary schools.

“You’re paying for them with what we call OCE (other current expense) money, what I call light bill money … money that was given to you that is supposed to be used for the operational costs and to cover the costs of support personnel,” Pouncey said. “You’ve got about $1.4 million dollars in additional certified personnel costs that you are paying for with ‘light bill’ money.”

Pouncey also said comparatively speaking, the school system is doing well but will have to make some serious decisions in 2013, such as possibly reconsidering the state’s recommendation of closing Byrd Elementary and the School of Discovery to decrease extra expenses.

“Your support staff is not hampering your progress for financial stability, nor is your support staff hampering your ability to pay for that school building,” Pouncey said. “You’re paying 87 support workers at $2.1 million dollars … what will probably pass at the conference committee [Wednesday] will be a reduction in what I call ‘light bill money.’ They cut us $18 million dollars statewide. In summary, you’re not going to have the same dollars to employ some support people or either those additional certified staff that you have had employed this year.”

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