• 72°

Vickers happy with education budget

On April 30, the Alabama state Senate gave final legislative approval for the state’s education budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year and sent it to Gov. Bob Riley for his review.

The Senate and Alabama House of Representatives each unanimously passed the budget, which was put together by State Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma). The proposed budget would allow all public schools that are not losing enrollment to preserve all state-funded teachers and support worker jobs.

“This year, what the governor proposed in his 2010 budget was a situation where he was looking at changing the divisors, which is how they fund teacher units,” said Demopolis City Schools superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers. “Even though they were small changes, they would have a dramatic impact in the number of teachers that we lost.

“That went around for a couple of months. It also hit us with some OCE — other current expenses — issues. That covers all of the support staff for the schools: anything that supports the classroom, which is custodial staff, secretarial staff, transportation — all of the things that go into making a school work.”

Vickers said that Sanders revised the budget, offering an alternate plan to the governor’s budget.

“It restored the divisors back to what we received this year,” Vickers said. “That was huge for us. Something else that Sen. Sanders put in there is that the state would receive some stabilization money through the governor’s office, and that would go out to each school district and go into OCE along with what the state will give us.

“It still doesn’t make up for all of it. We’re still going to be short in other current expenses, but it gave us hope that our budgets will be close to what we can work with. What it means for Demopolis is that we aren’t looking at massive turnover or massive reductions in those areas.”

Vickers said the Demopolis school system had already made some changes in the OCE area over the last few years to help the system be better prepared for the current situation.

“We’re not saying that we’re not going to have some of those things (layoffs and staff reduction),” Vickers said, “but right now, we’re not looking at the budget driving a tremendous amount of changes, and we’re very fortunate in that way.

“That doesn’t mean that every position is totally safe. We feel like the board has done a good job of being proactive in preparation.”