Dallas County Schools dealing with budget woes

Published 9:28 pm Monday, January 26, 2009

Proration has left the Dallas County School system like many others across the state – with little or no room in its budget.

The school system is operating with $2.4 million less in state funds due to proration. If the board dips into its general fund to make up the difference, the system runs the risk of not being able to meet the state mandated one-month operating budget at the end of September.

“This is a time when school districts need to lean on their local government entities,” said Superintendent Dr. Fannie Major-Mackenzie.

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According to Alabama law, a school system must have in its reserves a one-month operating budget at the end of each fiscal year.

A local decline in sales taxes over the past year has cut into the Dallas County School system’s budget.

Despite operating with less local funds than other school systems with similar demographics, the Dallas County School system has managed to increase its general fund over the last few years. It needs $2.6 to operate each month and ended the 2008 fiscal year with $3.7 in reserves.

Dallas County Schools typically receive about $27 million from the state. After that amount is prorated 9.5 percent, the system will receive less than $25 million. Salaries, benefits and textbooks take up the lion’s share of that money.

However, Dallas County splits its funds with Selma City Schools based on student population. The system gets half of the 8.5 mills of tax revenue with the rest going to Selma City Schools.

Dallas County School Board member Mark Story said this puts the system at a disadvantage.

“A lot of counties only have one system,” he said. “We have two.