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Proration impact still a mystery to local school administrators

Governor Robert Bentley’s Thursday statements regarding the potential of proration have done little to calm the waters of local school systems.

The Associated Press reported that Bentley has asked education officials how their schools and colleges would be affected if the budget were cut by three percent for this fiscal year and 10 percent for the next.

However, Bentley also indicated there is no guarantee Alabama education will suffer any measure of proration.

“Education Trust Fund proration is still a possibility, but in the General Fund it is a probability,” Bentley said.

Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Al Griffin indicated Friday that the mixed signals have done little to ease tensions regarding the potential of proration.

“We’ve been told conflicting stories,” Griffin said, citing news sources that have touted everything from the possibility of no proration to the potential for a 10 percent cut.

“It’s going to limit how much we could hold in our reserves to use for next year,” Griffin said of how DCS would be affected by a three percent cut this year and a 10 percent slice the following fiscal year. “Having budgeted in our current year five percent, if there is three percent, we’ll lose 60 cents on every dollar.”

For DCS, the budget submitted in September 2010 accounted for the potential of a five percent cut.

“When we prepared our budget, we planned for five percent proration,” Griffin said. “In they spring, once we see the plan for FY-12 (fiscal year 2012), we’ll be able to make our plans for 2012.”

While Griffin said the school system is preparing for proration of some kind, the prospect of no proration at all would clearly be the preferable option for DCS and its sister systems.

“That’s exactly what we’re hoping for,” Griffin said of Bentley’s optimistic words regarding a hypothetical lack of need for proration this year. “My guess would be that if we get the BP settlement for $116 million, that would offset any proration.”

However, with the BP settlement still in flux, the likelihood is that some financial cuts will be forced.

“Our goal is for a budget that is comparable to FY-2009,” Griffin said, citing the aims of the School Superintendents of Alabama. Griffin and other members of the SSA have their 2011 legislative agenda put together and will present it from Feb. 28 until March 2.

While the state budget has yet to be determined, most anticipate uncomfortable decisions are fast approaching given that stimulus funding will no longer be available in Fiscal Year 2012.

“We’ve been saved by the stimulus funding in 2010 and 2011,” Griffin said. “Fiscal Year 12, the stimulus money is gone.”