Schools feel planning pinch with no state budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2008

The last day of the legislative session came and went Monday without legislators agreeing on the state&8217;s proposed $6.3 billion education budget.

The news has put pressure on local school officials to begin their planning process for next year without

solid numbers to rely on.

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Already this month, Linden City Schools made preemptive personnel changes with the knowledge that the budget likely would not pass in regular session. Although the outcome may mean the loss of some jobs, Superintendent Scott Collier said it was something that had to be done in order to prepare for what may be to come.

Collier also emphasized that personnel who were non-renewed could be rehired once budget figures come in, but for now it is a waiting game.

The planned budget is $368 million less than this year&8217;s due to economic slowdown, with K-12 schools cut by 3 percent and state colleges and universities by 11 percent. In the last several weeks, lobbyists for higher education pushed hard for an extra $25 million.

Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, chairman of the Senate&8217;s education budget committee, said the budget was already in the red and can&8217;t afford another $25 million.

For Marengo County Schools, Superintendent Luke Hallmark said their system is already working with a lean budget, one free of excess without the proposed cuts.

Hallmark said between four and six of their current personnel may be affected by the cuts, and in a small school system those few individuals make a big difference. Other factors like gas prices, will continue to be a factor in coming weeks when planning for the next school year.

By the end of school this month, school systems are required to tell nontenured whether they will be retained for the fall.

In Demopolis, Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers faces the same challenges.

Legislators are expected to reconvene in special session after Memorial Day.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.