Schools adjust to proration, tap reserves

Published 3:24 am Saturday, October 3, 2009

Gov. Bob Riley declared a 7.5-percent proration rate earlier this week. That means that in order to maintain a balanced budget, the amount of money the state would allot to its school systems would be reduced by 7.5 percent.

School systems in Demopolis, Linden and Marengo County will all have to find ways to cut back on spending to make up for that lost revenue, but all were also grateful that it was announced early in the fiscal year (which began on Thursday) and for the amount to be prorated.

“It was good that they declared it early,” said Demopolis City Schools interim superintendent Dr. Neil Hyche. “That gives us time to make adjustments. We’ll be able to ride this one out in a positive way. We will have to tap into funds that we normally would not have to, and who knows? Last year, it started at a low number and went up to 9, 10, 11 percent. Who knows that that won’t happen again? We’ll have to be constantly aware of that and proceed accordingly.

“Hopefully, the economy – so we hear – is on the rebound, but it is very, very slowly. If the state revenues don’t come in, then ours don’t come in. We’ll just have to weather it, but we will be frugal with expenditures and make only those purchases that are necessary. We want to operate this year so that we will end with a good, positive balance for the following year.”

After a year in which the proration rate went from 6 percent to 9 percent and then to 11 percent, some schools are still reeling from cuts from last year.

“About 90 percent of our budget goes to salaries and benefits,” said Marengo County Schools superintendent Luke Hallmark. “We’re going to be like a lot of systems. We’re going to have to rely a lot on our reserves. I don’t think there’s any way that we can cut enough to make up that kind of difference. I do hope that the announced 7.5-percent proration is higher than it actually will be, and maybe we’ll get some relief by the end of Fiscal Year 2010.”