New school budget: ‘Tight’

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 9, 2004

A combination of lost teacher units, decrease in state funding and increase in state benefit premiums has put a financial bind on Demopolis City Schools, City Schools Chief Financial Officer Linda Agee said.

“We have developed a very conservative budget this year,” Agee said. Residents will have a chance to review the proposed budget during a budget hearing Thursday, Aug. 12 at 5:15. The Board of Education will hold it’s monthly meeting that night as well.

“We had a public hearing Aug. 2 and no one showed up,” Agee said.

Seventy-five percent of this year’s $14,548,838 budget is allocated to employees’ salaries and benefits, a 2.4 percent increase over last year.

“We went from $479 per month per employee to $583 per month,” Agee said. “That equals an additional $1,200 per person on health, prescription, hospitalization and other benefits.”

Additionally, Agee said, the system lost 6.94 teaching units, meaning lost funding for salaries, benefits, support staff, utilities and other funding.

State and federal funding for teaching units is awarded based on enrollment at the beginning of a school year, something that has been declining over the years, Agee said.

“This is a nationwide trend, not just a Demopolis trend,” she said. She explained that last year’s third-grade enrollment showed approximately 230 students, compared to this year’s kindergarten enrollment of little more than 150 students.

“The other problem is that for kindergarten through third grade, the maximum student to teacher ratio is 18 to 1. For fourth, fifth and sixth it goes up to 26 to 1,” she explained. She said that large third-grade class moved up to fourth grade, which does not require the smaller ratio, but was replaced at the lower grade level by a much smaller class.

“The two combined worked together to drop our teacher units,” Agee said.

Thursday’s budget hearing will take place at the Board of Education office on Cedar Street.

The State Department of Education will release its school report cards next week, a report that indicates how well a school system is preparing its students academically.