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Budget puts 20 teachers’ jobs at risk

While Gov. Robert Bentley has yet to sign the budget for Fiscal Year 2012, Superintendent Dr. Al Griffin anticipates that signature will deal a significant blow to Demopolis City Schools.

The budget is expected to result in the loss of 10 teaching units for DCS. The damage is exasperated by the potential loss of an additional 10 units resulting from the absence of stimulus monies and other funding.

“Based on the actual number of teaching units we have right now, we’re about 10 units over what we’re allocated (for Fiscal Year 2012). For the last two years, stimulus monies have offset this loss,” Griffin explained. “The education budget that has not been signed into law yet is calling for about 10 more. If you take what we’re over and deduct what we’re looking at for Fiscal Year ‘12, the difference is 20.”

The total number of teaching units that are expected to be missing from the budget for the coming fiscal year are the result of a variety of factors.

“There are two blows that hurt a school system financially,” Griffin said. “The first is a decline in enrollment. The second is a revenue shortage.”

Demopolis City Schools are suffering from what Griffin called a “perfect storm” of obstacles.

“Unfortunately, we have had a minor decline in enrollment,” Griffin said. “Had it been a normal year, we would have lost seven units. We were going to lose seven units even if the economy were good. Now the revenue shortages resulted in a budget that is likely coming from the legislature which will reduce the number of teaching units to each school system in the state.”

The questions for Demopolis City Schools center around the number of teaching units they will lose over the seven that Griffin said would have been lost in a good financial year.

“The preliminary allocation given to me indicates the we’re about to lose 10 more (teaching units),” Griffin said. “We were funding three more through stimulus and local monies.”

All total, Demopolis City Schools faces the prospect of losing as many as 20 teachers for the coming year. The prospect is a decidedly different path than would have been taken had Bentley’s initial budget been passed through the House and the Senate.

“The initial budget proposed by Dr. Bentley during his State of the State Address did not factor in a decline in the number of teaching units. It factored in a decline in other line items such as Other Current Expenses and transportation,” Griffin said. “When this budget was sent to the House and the Senate, they estimated that there was not enough money in it to transport students and pay the utilities.”

The Other Current Expenses portion of a budget allows a school system $15,000 per teaching unit. Those funds go toward paying for utilities, transportation, supplies and support staff. Initial projections from Bentley’s original budget proposal were that teaching units would be spared while support staff funds were cut statewide.

The budget that is expected to be signed by Bentley offers a drastically different look.

“The number that Dr. Bentley proposed was less than $13,000 (in Other Current Expenses) per unit,” Griffin said. “To offset that loss, the legislature chose to raise the divisors used to calculate earned teaching units, resulting in a loss of the number of teachers throughout the state.”

The shortfalls result from a number of factors. The root of the financial crunch, according to Griffin, dates back to October 2009.

“We all know that the economy has been in a downturn since early 2008. Education was saved by two years of stimulus money, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds,” Griffin said.

The budget for Fiscal Year 2009 initially saw a hit of 12.5 percent proration.

That number was to be offset by seven percent via funds from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

“However, instead of decreasing from 12.5 percent proration back to 5.5 percent, two percent (proration) was added,” Griffin said. “Instead of offsetting any of the proration in Fiscal Year 2009, the state was in such bad shape that it added two percent (proration).”

The budgets for for FY 2010 and FY 2011 have each suffered proration, resulting in a considerable loss for education funding over a three-year span.

“If you tally the long-term effects of proration since Oct. 1, 2008, we are 34 percent short of where we were,” Griffin said. “That’s a loss of about $4 million as a school system.”

That total is based upon the $119,000 Demopolis City Schools loses with each percent of proration suffered.

“Seven percent of that was offset by the Rainy Day Fund,” Griffin said. “That comes to $850,000. We are looking at a loss of about $3.1 million over time for the school system. Starting in Fiscal Year 2012, we are 34 percent less than what we were Oct. 1, 2008 with no Rainy Day Fund and no stimulus monies to offset that loss.”

While the outlook is grim, Griffin said DCS officials are working to lighten the blow and save as many jobs as possible.

“Where are we going from here? Fortunately, in Demopolis, we have an adequate tax base and we have some federal monies we can redirect,” Griffin said. “We will save every teaching unit possible. We will protect the integrity of this school system by first protecting the classroom. The central office staff and I are working diligently to redirect funding in an effort to save as many classroom teaching units as possible.”